Daily Fantasy Sports, Beyond the Lawsuits: Facts, Fantasy, and What You Should Know

| October 9, 2015

If you’ve been following any sports lately, you’ve almost surely seen or heard an ad for DraftKings or FanDuel.

Daily fantasy sports (referred to by many as DFS) is a multibillion dollar industry—and it’s only getting bigger (if you don’t know how these games/contests work, there’s  a nice run-down in this “Daily Fantasy Sports  for Dummies” article).

So what’s the big deal with the Daily Fantasy Sports? The main issue that it’s essentially turned from a per-season game among friends to a daily, potentially nonstop, activity.  With 17 regular weeks of NFL games and 162 regular season Major League Baseball games, you can see how it all can add up–and those are only two major sports (think: NBA, NHL, soccer, golf, Canadian football, NASCAR, mixed martial arts…the list goes on).

Ads like this DraftKings banner tout the ability to play for free and win big. (Source: DraftKings)

Ads like this DraftKings banner tout the ability to play for free and win big. (Source: DraftKings)

Getting into the game

You see that ads and and that it’s “free” to sign up.  However, when you get further into the process of signing up for FanDuel and DraftKings, you’ll find that you have to enter your credit card information to put in a “deposit.” Sure, you can get this money back, but it would take some effort. Placing your fantasy entries can be anywhere from $0.25 to thousands of dollars, with total prizes into the millions. Sound at all like gambling? The technical definition of gambling is “risking money or something of value in the hopes of obtaining something of greater value.”  So, yeah, it’s basically gambling.

But isn’t gambling online illegal in the U.S.?

Here’s the thing: although online gambling has been illegal in the U.S. since the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 (although this law has since legalized state-by-state decision on the matter), the UIGEA has specifically legalized fantasy operations. The main problem with this, though, is that the law didn’t predict DAILY fantasy sports.

The main issue is that the law says that “skill predominates over chance.” But the differentiation of skill and chance is murky, at best – as there are many uncontrolled variables.

The loopholes are so big that the leagues themselves are investing in these operations, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into them. Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), and National Hockey League (NHL) have official partnerships with DraftKings and FanDuel. Why? The leagues see this as a market opportunity for their sports – participating in DFS gets you to watch the game and get you more involved with “your” players.

Since definitions are so murky, most states don’t yet have laws on the books regarding DFS.

A concern beyond law

But DFS is a concern much beyond the legal issues of whether or not it’s legal, and whether or not it’s fair.

This DraftKings ads lets the player’s priorities speak for themselves.

One: So much money is being wagered on the performance of an individual player, that this can be tempting for athletes who might want a few extra bucks. Unlike throwing the game for a whole team, it’s a lot easier for one individual to throw his/her own performance… it’s undetectable, simple, easy to make happen.

Two:  Those who follow behavioral and public health fields will see the main concern is that of addiction. The National Council on Problem Gambling released a resolution on fantasy sports in October 2015. The statement lists that the Council “believes fantasy sports contest participants are at high risk to, and do, develop gambling problems.” It also calls on fantasy sports companies use the Council’s GRADE consumer protection guidelines, as well as talk about the risks of problem gambling as related to their contest offerings.

Some of the issues with gambling (and gaming) addiction involve:

  • Isolation
  • Preoccupation with the behavior
  • Needing to do it more often, and with increasing amounts
  • Lying or concealing behavior
  • Withdrawing from other activities
  • And others– check out a full list here.

If you know someone who might be obsessed with their fantasy games or exhibits other signs of a gambling problem,  know that there is help. In Oregon, the 24-hour helpline for gambling problems is 1-877-MY-LIMIT (online chat is available also at www.opgr.org). In other areas of the U.S., people can call or text the nationwide 24-hour helpline, 1-800-522-4700.

We don’t know whether the future will hold, given the sheer amount of money involved, we’re not likely to see a fantasy finale anytime soon.

Supplemental Resources:

Great video resources on daily fantasy sports to watch and share:

“The Fantasy Sports Gamble,“ (PBS FRONTLINE, 2/9/16)
Is it Gambling? How States View Daily Fantasy Sports,” (PBS FRONTLINE, 2/8/16)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Daily Fantasy Sports,” 11/15/15

Gambling on Gaming in the news:

Valve company sends cease and desist letters to skins gaming companies– http://imgur.com/a/qCKwk

Virtual weapons are turning teen gamers into serious gamblers (Bloomberg, 4/20/16)


“Kids who play simulated gambling games more likely to become problem gamblers later in life” . (Australian Gambling Research Centre, April 2016)

Calado, F., Alexandre, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Mom, Dad it’s only a game! Perceived gambling and gaming behaviors among adolescents and young adults: An exploratory study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12, 772-794. — http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11469-014-9509-y


“Kids who play simulated gambling games more likely to become problem gamblers later in life” . (Australian Gambling Research Centre, April 2016)

Gainsbury, S.M. Hing, N., Delfabbro, P., Dewar, G., & King, D.L. (2015). An exploratory study of interrelationships between social casino gaming, gambling, and problem gambling. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 13, 136-153. — http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11469-014-9526-x

Kim, H.S., Wohl, M, J.A., Salmon, M.M., Gupta, R., & Derevensky, J. (2015). Do social casino gamers migrate to online gambling? An assessment of migration rate and potential predictors. . Journal of Gambling Studies, 31, 1819-1831. — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651986/

Gaming addiction resources:

From gamer in recovery, Cameron Adair:


– Julie Hynes

Category: Problem Gambling

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