Waging the war on wagering

“Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, sir.”

-Judge Smails


I’ve been puzzled by this whole online, fantasy football gambling, Draft Kings, Fan Duel thing for quite some time.

Something just seemed odd about it.

For example, if it is illegal for me, as a US citizen who resides outside the great state of Nevada, to gamble on football games, how should it be legal for me to spend my hard-earned money on fantasy football, where I’m not betting on the outcome of games but rather on the outcome of the players who play in them?

The difference is a very fine line.


If you’re a regular watcher of ESPN such as I am, you’ve probably noticed that those two websites in particular, Draft Kings and Fan Duel, are heavy sponsors of the network.  Far be it from any of us to be surprised that the worldwide leader in sports has jumped head first on to the fantasy bandwagon.

Commercials for these ‘gambling’ websites tell stories of average Joes who have won thousands upon millions of dollars with seemingly little financial investment simply by picking a lineup that garnered them the most touchdown passes and yards gained on any given Sunday.

Things that make you go hmmmm.  If I can bet and win money on Tom Brady passing four touchdowns, then why can’t I bet and win money by betting on the Patriots when he does the exact same thing?

NFL QB roulette

Because someone found a loophole that has gone unchecked and unmonitored for years, that’s why.

Well, that’s all about to change thanks to New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who tells us there’s little if any difference between the two.

Sorry, boys.  The charade is over.  I can just hear the Long Islanders in their basements now, cursing Schneiderman’s name just because he has a conscience.

There’s a scene in Stephen King’s sci-fi classic The Running Man where game show host Damon Killian, played ever so aptly by Richard Dawson, celebrates the only three men to ever win the game show’s contest.  These men successfully completed the challenge and live the life of luxury with super models and millions of dollars at their leisure.  We later find out it was all a ploy and those three contestants were actually rotting corpses.

Just like our hero discovered the whole thing was a scam, the state of New York just did their best Ah-nold by issuing a cease-and-desist order on these fantasy sites, calling this sort of gaming illegal.

Get your money out while you can, boys.  Your clock is ticking.

I’m not suggesting that the lucky few football ‘geniuses’ who these commercials tout as winners didn’t actually take home the amount of money the websites claim.  That would just be lying and we know unregulated gambling companies would never do a thing like that.  What these companies fail to mention, however, is how much each individual actually spends to win that money, as well as how much the countless others who dumped their cash into these endeavors lost with the hopes of being one of those lucky few.

Fan Duel winners

Rarely will a gambler tell you exactly how much he lost on a bad weekend, just like an alcoholic won’t tell you how much he’s had to drink.

I gamble on sports, frugally and within my bankroll.  I understand, however, that others don’t have that same discipline.  I’ve even put money, not much, into those accounts, all the while wondering how what I was doing was legal when I couldn’t just put fifty bucks down on a team to win on the same site.

What, I ask you, is the difference?  Schneiderman claims there is none.

In their defense, fantasy football gambling websites state their games are games of skill and therefore do not fall under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.  Those must be some slick talking lawyers.  They must also be well-paid considering the billions of dollars their clients make on your average autumn weekend.

As I’ve stated in the past, I gamble on sports but I also understand why rules on gambling exist, just as rules on alcohol, drugs and other things that are potentially bad for us.

These laws are in place to protect us from ourselves.

I’m no Law and Order fan (clank clank) but I have a feeling this is going to end badly for the fantasy sites, like shutting down the Boiler Room, at least until they carve another loophole.  At best, these sites can now expect to be heavily regulated which again, I don’t have a problem with.  I cut off customers at the bar if they’ve had too much to drink.  What’s to stop a gambling site from preventing one of its clients from doing the same thing to protect his interests?

This is all about to get interesting.  Expect a John Grisham novel based on these goings-on soon.

In fact, I’d even bet on it.

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19 Replies to “Waging the war on wagering”

  1. I find this ridiculous. If you earn your money, you should be able to spend it how you see fit. If women can have sex unprotected, and then go have an abortion and no one feels that is morally wrong, who are you do-gooders to tell someone they cannot gamble in any form that they choose? I am morally pro- life, but politically pro-choice, for this same reason. Just because you may know someone who can’t handle their gambling doesn’t mean we need more government intrusion into our freedoms. This is government overreach is not about “protecting people from themselves”, its about stopping these companies and the gamblers who frequent them from slipping money past the mafia and other government funded entities that control the legal gambling in this country.

  2. I really thought in my lifetime I’d be able to walk outside in Pennsylvania and place a bet on a football, basketball game…whatever. It always puzzled me why Las Vegas was deemed for all practical purposes the begin and end of that ability. If one gives up a dollar and the outcome that follows determines whether you get it back at all..or get more than your dollar back…that’s gambling. It doesn’t matter how skillful or how much luck may be involved while you are evaluating the event in question. The fact money is exchanging hands for loss or gain per the outcome is wagering. Again…that’s gambling. This argument about what is skill and what is luck is irrelevant to me so I just toss that to the side and for those who didn’t think analytic types with deep pockets were going to step into fantasy and keep all the dough for themselves…oh well. How the daily fantasy industry could blow up unregulated and major sports leagues and their teams raced towards embracing it while at the same time sending all their lawyers into every state in the union to fight off Americans being able to bet on the outcome of REAL games is, of course, insane. On the basis of the sheer volume of commercials I have had to live through these last few months I hope these fantasy sites fold up…unless of course they have now created the leverage for legalizing betting on REAL games. If that is the case may they live forever because at least then we’ll be keeping it REAL.

  3. Interesting take, Chuck. Exactly that counterpoint I was looking for.

    First of all, the abortion issue. There are plenty of people who have a problem with it. That’s why it’s still a hot button in this country. I dare you to drive by any clinic in any town and not see a line of protesters and picket lines outside their drive way.

    So it’s safe to say there are those who still find it “morally wrong.”

    And look, someone’s getting this money. Whether it’s the mafia or the government or the fat cats on wall street. You’re dumping five hundred a week into a gambling account. It’s lining someone’s pockets.

    Do as you please with it. You’re right, it’s none of my business until it is. I’m not saying make it illegal. Shit, we still have a lottery in every state (that allegedly funds education) that gives us a hell of a lot lower chance of winning back our money than any fantasy football league.

    I am saying it should be regulated. Marijuana’s legal in Colorado now. They don’t even know what to do with all that tax money.

  4. We have a Hard Rock Casino here in Tampa, Burnsy.

    I’ll play the occasional viddy poker table and very rarely the poker room. I also stay away from the tables unless it’s a special occasion.

    That being said, if they built a sports book, I’d be there every damn Sunday.

  5. Damn…when you used the words Hard Rock and sports book in the same sentence, my nipples bunched up like a little girl’s 🙂 I’d be there every Sunday, too, plus Saturdays in-season. Interesting that when I went to dip my toes in the DFS water with Yahoo, I found out that FL residents were ineligible, although not so with the Big 2. My inquiry to Yahoo concerning this did not yield a satisfactory answer.

    BTW, did I miss the results of the preseason MLB guessing game?

  6. IMO, with the dominoes falling in individual states, DFS, Fan Duel and other upstart fantasy companies will soon go bankrupt. Between the mega-millions spent on advertising $$ and now the legal fees to fight “City Hall” it’s inevitable. They’ve already experience a major scandal with insider trading(info). A recent study concluded that less than 5% of the players win the majority of the money. I’ve seen it firsthand where these prop players are extremely talented.

    With no safeguards and regulations, while virtually operating on the honor system, what chance does John Q and the rest of the 95% recreational players have?……….None.

  7. Just what we need… more regulations so Nanny Government can tell us what to do with our lives. Just because Joe Blow can’t control his urges, let’s penalize all the normal people.

    There are hundreds of internet ‘pickem’ and ‘fantasy team’ sites where real money is won and lost. Why is the govt only jumping on DK and FD? My guess is they found a loophole and the govt isn’t getting any rake. Government finds a way to kill off the competitors of the many ‘state’ controlled lotteries.

  8. The state of New York is looking to protect it’s so called interests. It is a ridiculous situation altogether. New York’s State Legislature is still against licensing MMA events within the state , now pushing unsanctioned events underground. and an unhealthy environment. Crazy when to think of it , when you consider the millions in lost revenues that would be gained by the state .

    Politicians and lawyers will always find a way to screw things up one way or another .

  9. So the Colorado Rockies and the MLB hierarchy are unsure how to deal with Jose Reyes and the fact he’s been charged with spousal abuse and assault? Is MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred waiting on instructions from the NFL, concerning how they dealt with both Ray Rice and Greg Hardy ?

  10. Bets…

    I’ve never dumped huge money into one of those league but I hear getting into the multi-person pools is a total waste of money.

    I’m old school, man. I’d rather just bet on the games outright. Getting a good feel for that is difficult enough.

    Besides, there’s no money line in fantasy, he he.

  11. I think the better argument against these two sites is that you are betting blind. You take their word that you lost… again. Say you go 15-1 five weeks in a row, and, every time, they tell you another player went 16-0.
    That’s why I don’t gamble online. Same way when poker was online. How do we know the cards dealt were totally random? Couldn’t the man behind the curtain manipulate the deck so that the house ‘plant(s)’ would bad beat a legit hand over 50% of the time?
    And, you do know that the online poker guys are the same guys running DK and FD, don’t you?

  12. That doesn’t surprise me one bit, Han.

    And I used to play poker online, even cashed in a few times.

    But yea for them to say that fantasy football is a skill game where betting on games is not? I don’t buy it.

    And by regulation, I think that’s what they mean, having to report wins and losses so that people (gamblers) know what they’re getting themselves into.

  13. Chris Christie summed it up during the last Republican debate…

    He said something to the effect of, with all the problems in the world and this country, we’re talking about sports betting??


  14. Clearly our priorities are out of whack, Bleed, and I hope I’m not being misunderstood in the post.

    I’d like nothing more than to go to my local Hard Rock and lay down a healthy wager.

    But if betting on games is illegal for the reasons it is, I understand why the DA thinks fantasy football wagering is too.

  15. … Then, we should shut down Wall Street, etc. where many wager wages and savings on companies (like picking players), attempting to balance a portfolio (like creating a fantasy team), hoping to profit from the wager, ‘er, investment… Fantasy Sports. It’s a game taken from around the water cooler to new heights. Regulate to prevent ” insider trading ” and etc. Then let the games … continue.

  16. Eh….

    Not quite sure I’m buying the football players are stocks line, Tam.

    And I don’t think Wall Street needs any help shutting themselves down. They’ve proven perfectly capable of doing that on their own volition.

    We should also determine who’s going to regulate the, wait for it….. regulators!!!

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