Fantasy sports betting raising real questions

KPC News Service

Maybe that question about fantasy sports, in the third Republican presidential debate, wasn’t so stupid, after all.

Daily fantasy sports games burst into the news last week when the attorney general of New York declared them illegal in his state. The New York Times considered the subject worthy of an editorial.

The topic may not be on the same level as national security, but it could reveal a presidential candidate’s philosophy on the role of government in regulating business and protecting citizens from themselves.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ridiculed the question, but it should have interested him, since he governs a state that ranks third in revenue from legal gambling. (Indiana ranks fourth.)

Daily fantasy sports games have mushroomed on the Internet in the past couple of years, with advertising all over television and more than $2 billion dollars in entry fees flowing to fantasy companies. Their legality centers on whether they are games of skill, and therefore legal, or gambling, and thus illegal.

The New York Times minced no words in the first sentence of its editorial.

“The millions who play and lose on daily fantasy sports websites are engaged in gambling, plain and simple,” the newspaper declared recently.

Fantasy game companies have vowed to fight back against New York’s proposed ban, insisting their contests are, in fact, based on skill.

Daily games have changed drastically the nature and sums of money involved in fantasy sports.

Traditional fantasy games involve tracking individual athletes over an entire season of 4-6 months. They often are played among small groups of friends and acquaintances.

Any bets tend to be relatively small, with the payout at the end of the season. We recommend enjoying fantasy games the old-fashioned way.

New York’s attorney general has conceded that season-long fantasy sports are games of skill. Playing over a span of several months reduces the element of luck.

Daily fantasy sports games depend on athletes’ performances in a single day. They have attracted millions of players across the nation, with prizes in the millions of dollars.

Betting on which team will win a sporting event always has been defined as gambling, and doing so is legal only in Nevada. It takes a stretch of logic to conclude that betting on individual athletes is significantly different. Research helps, but in both cases it’s possible to win with pure guesswork.

New York law defines gambling as betting on any event in which the outcome is not under the control of the bettor.

The legal status of fantasy sports should be important to states that earn money from gambling. Indiana took in more than $870 million from casinos, horse racing and its lottery in the past year. Indiana and other states get nothing from fantasy sports.

Professional sports leagues abhor betting on who wins their games, because of the potential for corruption.

In contrast, four major professional sports leagues are part-owners of daily fantasy gambling companies. Fantasy sports dramatically boost interest in their games. But the potential for corruption also exists with fantasy games. Now that prizes run in the millions, someone is sure to find ways to cheat.

Should government get involved in policing daily fantasy sports? Or should it let the free market operate?

If fans suspect a fantasy sports site is rigged, it won’t stay in business long.

We think government should be cautious about trying to put daily fantasy sports back in the bottle. Millions of Americans have made it clear that they want to play daily fantasy games.

This was distributed by Hoosie

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