To many fans, Sunday’s Super Bowl victor is less important than their daily fantasy sports wagers and the very real cash they could win.
Along with the rapid growth of fantasy sports betting sites FanDuel and Draft Kings, has come increased scrutiny and questions about whether daily fantasy sport betting is even legal.
At least in the budding fantasy industry. So is it just a game, or is it gambling?
Attorneys general in six states have declared the daily fantasy games a form of gambling or illegal under state laws, including New York, Texas, Illinois, Hawaii, Vermont and Mississippi. Yet last week, Rhode Island’s attorney general but said it needs to be regulated.
The fantasy sports industry and their attorneys argue it’s not gambling because it’s a “game of skill” rather than luck. Those who side with the states, however, have an entirely different take.
“Daily fantasy sports are gambling because it is a game of chance,” Timothy Fong, co-director of University of California at Los Angeles’ Gambling Studies Program told CNBC’s “On the Money” in an interview.
Fong argued that any event can alter the game, and “just a single moment in time that determines outcome, which is essentially gambling.”
Proponents of fantasy betting disagree. “It’s a game of skill,” says Rick Horrow, sports attorney and CEO of Horrow Sports Ventures. Horrow told CNBC that fantasy sports isn’t entirely unlike how adolescents used to wager on games—which he himself did as a kid.
Decades ago, “I would send draft picks in the mail to friends and we would play a forerunner of fantasy,” Horrow said, adding that the modern day version is ” basically the evolution of technology to catch up with what people want.”
Nearly fantasy sports in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, and 66 percent of players are male. The average age is 37.
In spite of the hullaballoo, Horrow says only a small percentage of fantasy users actually play the daily wagers. “Frankly, five percent of the entire industry is daily fantasy…the rest is fantasy on a seasonal basis that nobody questions.”
Yet UCLA’s Fong also drew a distinction between daily fantasy sports wagers and fantasy sports competitions that encompass the whole sports season.
“Season-long fantasy sports is not gambling,” says Dr. Fong, “It’s skill-based because people are constantly making moves, things are changing.”