Punch Drunk Wonderland

Are Pro Sports Leagues Hypocritical by Supporting Fantasy Sports Betting?

Pro sports leagues like the MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL have long been against expanding legal sports betting outside of Vegas. They seem to have no problem however aligning themselves with fantasy sports leagues, which many consider to very close in concept to traditional sports betting. What these leagues were failing to realize is that millions of sports fans are using fantasy sports to get their gambling fix, despite the fact that it is not legally considered a form of gambling.

Leagues with an entry fee to join and a cash payout for winning became the norm rather than the exception, and closely resemble the process involved at sportsbooks. Sites like Fanduel and Draftkings have found a way to capitalize on this market by taking this process and applying it to each game. Fantasy sites offering baseball leagues and leagues of the other major sports have grown exponentially in popularity. Players pay the entry fee to get in the “game” and win a pool relative to the total number of people in the game.

The Legality of Fantasy Betting

Is fantasy betting legal? The legality of these fantasy betting sites has stirred much controversy in the sports world. In a nutshell, fantasy betting is legal because it is considered a game of skill rather than a game of chance, and is exempted specifically in the UIGEA bill. A player’s knowledge of the game directly affects their chance of winning. Another key factor is the wager is not on the outcome of an actual game, but rather the individual statistical outcomes of players on various teams. While the team rosters may be comprised by fantasy sports participants rather than the actual professional draft, you cannot deny that people are putting up money in hopes of winning more money based on the performance of professional athletes.

The Hypocrisy of the Situation

At the end of the day each professional sports league is a business. The leagues are seeing fantasy sports betting as a way to capitalize on gamblers without dealing while simultaneously opposing sports betting expansion in the US. They also have no problems doing business with non-USA betting sites and gambling establishments. European gambling sites are some of the largest paying customers of NBA sports videos.

In other words, the leagues did a cost-benefit analysis of each avenue and decided supporting fantasy betting comes with much less baggage. The reason this is hypocritical is that fantasy sports betting is extremely close conceptually to traditional sports betting, just a slightly different platform. For example, in traditional sports betting you would make a wager on a team to win. In fantasy sports betting you still wager on a team to win, its just that the wager is on a team of players you drafted. Then the outcome is decided by those players’ collective performance, just like a regular sports game. It’s a very minor difference in process.

Traditional sports betting involves bets are often based on careful statistical analysis, and the amount of winnings is based on the likelihood of that outcome. The main difference is you just cannot pick your own teams. Every draft in fantasy sports involves knowledge on each individual player. Some of the top fantasy players pour a full work week’s worth of hours into analyzing these stats. Most traditional sports betters put this same level of dedication into their wagers. They make an informed decision based on their analysis and only wager an amount they’d be comfortable losing.

The reality is betting on a game of skill like fantasy sports is more morally sound than buying a lotto ticket, yet we never question the legality of the lotto. Sports betting and fantasy sports are very similar in nature, so why do we question the validity of sports betting? If anything, perhaps the leagues will recognize the hypocrisy of the situation and loosen their stance on the expansion of legalized sports betting. Adam Silver, NBA commissioner has already made steps in this direction. We can hope that the other leagues will do the same.

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