A University of Iowa business professor says the NFL labor dispute is having a big impact on the multi-million dollar fantasy football industry. Jeff Ohlmann says an estimated 20 million Americans participated in a fantasy football league last year and selling and marketing things to those owners is big business. The NFL lockout has many companies involved in the fantasy sports industry in limbo.

“I know one site, CBS Sports, is still trying to get people to sign up for fantasy football leagues and information by essentially discounting it or offering a guarantee saying if there are games lost or the season is canceled, we’ll refund you or provide you credit,” Ohlmann said.

Magazines and pay-walled websites offer expert commentary to help fantasy football owners plan their draft and management strategies. Other businesses are willing to pay big bucks to advertise on those websites or in those publications. Ohlmann, with the help of UI grad students, developed a iPhone app with his own algorithm to help owners decide which players to draft. He says fantasy football drafts, alone, provide a boost to the economy.

“Sports bars, restaurants and even hotels in Las Vegas see a boom in business from all these fantasy football drafts. People actually meet in person at bars and restaurants – or even go to Vegas for their drafts, if they’re really gung ho,” Ohlmann said. He says those businesses that bank on revenue from fantasy leagues could be in trouble because “every week without football is a week without revenue.”

Ohlmann says his fantasy football league has a draft scheduled for August 26th and it’ll take place whether the NFL labor dispute has been settled or not. The NFL’s regular season opener, if the lockout is resolved, is set for September 8 with the New Orleans Saints at the Green Bay Packers.