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Yahoo brings real money to its fantasy sports app

The search giant makes a bet on fantasy sports, introducing a feature that lets people place their own bets to win -- or lose -- real money.

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The new Fantasy Sports feature lets users play daily games, instead of contests that last an entire sports season. Screenshot by CNET

Yahoo hopes to score by expanding its already popular Fantasy Sports app.

The Internet giant on Wednesday announced it will host daily and weekly fantasy sports games where users can place real bets. Previously, Yahoo's service offered only season-long contests.

In fantasy sports, users assemble a team of players from basketball, football or baseball, and then earn points for how well those players perform in actual games. Yahoo is already a premier brand in the world of fantasy sports providers, along with companies like ESPN and CBS. (CBS is CNET's parent company.)

Yahoo has good reason to push further into fantasy sports. The audience for the pastime grew 40 percent last year, with more than 56 million people playing in the United States and Canada, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. The average player also spends $465 a year on contest fees, according to the trade association.

Fantasy sports has been a bright spot for Yahoo as CEO Marissa Mayer still works to turn around the struggling company. Since taking the helm in three years ago, Mayer has tried to remake the company for the mobile era as consumers spend more time on their smartphones and tablets than on desktop and notebook computers. But while she's revamped all of Yahoo's mobile apps and services -- from Yahoo Mail to Weather to Finance -- the company still faces flagging revenue.

With its new feature, Yahoo hopes to cash in on the growing popularity of daily contests. Fanduel, which also offers daily fantasy sports games, has the backing of high-profile investors like NBC Sports and the NBA. DraftKings, another rival, is said to be getting an investment from Disney, which owns ESPN, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Adding daily games will help Yahoo's app is appeal to the "modern fan," Simon Khalaf, SVP of Product and Engineering at Yahoo, said in a statement.

For now, Yahoo's daily contests are only focused on Major League Baseball, but the company will add other sports as their professional seasons start. As of launch, entry into the daily games range from or as little as $1 or $5, and as high as $250. Prizes for winners can reach $50,000.