Silly Little Game or Illegal Enterprise?

Fantasy Sports have become gambling opportunities rather than friendly competitions


Wiki Commons

Draft Kings and FanDuel are just a few of the online fantasy sports websites that states including Illinois, New York and Texas have come down against in recent months, claiming they are an illegal way to gamble. These sites are considered addictive and unregulated.

Fantasy sports are  one of the fastest growing industries in America. According to ESPN, over 30 million people participated in fantasy sports last year, and daily fantasy games have expanded to include everything from the NFL to college sports to professional golf. These sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel draw in many sports fans with their non-stop ads during Sunday NFL football games. But these sites’ annoying commercials aren’t the only things making headlines.

The state of New York has declared that these daily fantasy sports sites as illegal gambling sites and condemned their practices.The “daily fantasy” industry is growing immensely, and according to the New York Times, brought in over $2.1 billion in entries fees in 2015 and will grow to over $20 billion by 2020. These sites claim to be games of skill for die-hard fantasy sports fans, but these games are NOT fantasy sports.

Fantasy sports were created in 1978 by New York Times Editor Dan Okrent and some of his academic friends who wanted a way to follow the game they loved. Okrent and his friends met every week at the La Rotisserie Francaise Restaurant in New York and formed the “Rotisserie Baseball League.” Okrent did not have the intention of creating a worldwide phenomenon, especially not a multi-billion dollar industry. Over time the idea spread to other sports, such as football. With the ability to play on the internet, the “silly little game,” as Okrent called it, became an international phenomenon.

However, Okrent and his friends might not be too happy about the current state of their creation. Okrent created Rotisserie Baseball as a way to test his own baseball knowledge against his friends’.

As an avid fantasy football and basketball player, I don’t understand the appeal of daily fantasy games like DraftKings and FanDuel. For me, the appeal of fantasy sports is drafting a team of players as your own based on your knowledge of the sport and compete against your friends and win bragging rights.

In both my fantasy football and basketball leagues, there is no monetary incentive, just the incentive to compete against your friends.

Another aspect of the DraftKings and Fan Duel sites is that they are one-day games, which means you can reset your team every day.

For me, the appeal of fantasy sports is drafting a team of players as your own based on your knowledge of the sport and compete against your friends and win bragging rights.

This is unappealing to me because part of the fun of fantasy sports is following the players on your team over the course of the year. I’ve ended up watching random basketball games on a Wednesday night just to see how one of my players is doing. If you change your team every day, then you don’t really make that same connection with players, and it becomes less about the fun of watching and following the game and more about making money. And when you’re just in it to make money, it’s no different from gambling.

Junior Liam O’Donnell plays fantasy sports not for the monetary incentive, but for the competitive aspect and for the opportunity to broaden his viewing horizons.

“One of the main reasons I play fantasy football is to be competitive with friends,” O’Donnell said. “It’s also nice to have some viewing interest in a game between the Buccaneers and the Raiders.”

One reason why many states such as New York, Illinois and Texas have all come out against these one-day fantasy sites is because the sites take a portion of players’ winnings when they win a matchup with another player, similar to the way a casino takes a cut.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton  said that he believed the sites were gambling in an interview with CNN.

“Simply put, it is prohibited gambling in Texas if you bet on the performance of a participant in a sporting event and the house takes a cut,” Paxton said.

Junior Liam O’Donnell agrees that these one-day fantasy games should be illegal.

“I think it should be illegal because it is definitely unregulated gambling, and it seems like the only reason the NFL is okay with these sites is because they have a sponsorship deal and make money off them,” O’Donnell said. “It seems like a double standard to make these games legal but to keep certain gambling games like online poker illegal, because they both require the same amount of skill and luck.”

Senior Justin Bernstein believes that betting money with friends is okay, but that once you remove the friendly competition aspect, it becomes gambling.

“I think it really depends on the format of the league,” Bernstein said. “I think if you’re in a league with a bunch of friends then [betting money] is fine, but the sites like DraftKings and FanDuel seem like a different story because you lose that friendly competition.”

Bernstein also believes there is a social aspect of fantasy basketball that you don’t get from these online sites.

“Fantasy sports requires a certain set of social skills to be successsful because you are constantly talking trades with other members of the league and working out deals,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of friends playing fantasy sports, and I take it pretty seriously. But at the end of the season, win or lose, I always enjoy playing because of the social aspect.”

Comment using your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account