Fantasy games are fantasy, not gambling

DraftKings and FanDuel are not putting sports books inside NFL stadiums

Call it anything but gambling
  • Call it anything but gambling

I TiVo NFL games. If you wait until halftime and then start watching via TiVo, you can skip through commercials and wind up at game’s end in real time. Sadly, this season, thanks to a vile TiVo malfunction, I’ve been watching NFL games live, exposed, for the first time in years, to the unabridged library of NFL game-day commercials.

Here’s a stat from sportsgrid.com: An average NFL game lasts three hours and 12 minutes. Game action is 11 minutes, commercials require 63 minutes, the rest is players and coaches standing around, cheerleaders cheerleading, referees refereeing, and so on.

Regard a January 2014 SportsonEarth piece. (I’m using this date because that was near the time I stopped watching live NFL games.) The writer counted commercials during ten playoff games broadcast over three weeks. The result amounted to 112 commercials per game.

Follows are the top brands as expressed in the number of commercials shown per brand: Verizon, Bud Light, McDonald’s, IBM, Subway, Ford, Windows, Xfinity, Play 60 (NFL promotion), Miller Lite, State Farm, Southwest. You know them all.

The number of commercials per game wasn’t surprising — after you hit 80 or 90, who cares? But new to me were the advertisers. I was not prepared, when turning on my first live game, to be carpet-bombed by commercials touting daily fantasy sports in the form of DraftKings and FanDuel.

According to iSpot.tv, a media tracking company, two fantasy-sports sites (DraftKings and FanDuel), spent, in seven days, $30 million on TV commercials. Thirty million bucks a week times 17 NFL regular-season weeks equals $510 million; call it a half-billion dollars. I thought the NFL was anti-gambling.

But, upon further review, I learned, as DraftKings, the official daily fantasy partner of Major League Baseball and the NBA, a FanDuel equity stakeholder, will tell you, daily fantasy sports is not gambling. The Box is happy not gambling is making enough money to fund a half-billion dollars’ worth of TV commercials, with plenty left over for the NFL, MLB, and all the other FanDuel and DraftKings draft buddies. It’s a virtuous circle: the only people losing money are the dumb public and they’re used to it.

NFL Week 4 (home team in caps)

NFL Week 4 (home team in caps)

But, is it legal?

I think “legal enough” is a better concept. Let me direct your attention to Harvard Law School Journal of Sports & Entertainment; specifically, to a 2011 article, “">A Short Treatise on Fantasy Sports and the Law”:

Marc Edelman writes, “According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, ‘to gamble’ is defined as ‘to play a game for money or property,’ or ‘to bet on an uncertain outcome.’ However, in most states, not every ‘game for money’ or ‘bet on an uncertain outcome’ is defined as illegal gambling. Rather, most states maintain explicit carve-outs that permit certain activities, such as stock trading, that otherwise would seemingly fall under the category of gambling.”

“Carve-out” is the cry from DraftKings and FanDuel. Essentially, their argument is that daily fantasy-sports are games of skill and therefore cannot be considered gambling.

This is by no means settled law. Daily fantasy sports is flat-out illegal in Arizona, Louisiana, Iowa, Montana, Washington, and up for grabs elsewhere.

But it’s legal enough for The Money. DraftKings investors include: National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, Fox Sports, and ESPN. FanDuel investors include: Comcast Ventures, NBC Sports Ventures, Google Capital, and Time Warner. And that’s just the tippy-tip of the money iceberg. DraftKings and FanDuel have partnerships with 28 out of 30 NFL teams. The San Diego Chargers is a FanDuel team. And that’s only the NFL.

While we’re here I want to set the record straight: DraftKings and FanDuel are not going to put sports books inside NFL stadiums; that is contemptible slander. They are going to build “fantasy sports lounges” inside NFL stadiums. According to the Jacksonville Jaguars website, “The Jacksonville Jaguars and FanDuel today announced a landmark extension to their current partnership with the creation of FanDuelVille at EverBank Field...integrating in-stadium entertainment with the booming daily fantasy sports industry...can comfortably hold 3,000 fans at once...will have access to unique free daily fantasy football games and experiences...biggest and best party scene in professional sports...multiple bars with signature cocktails, a live DJ and emcee, as well as significant promotional opportunities for fans....”

There are Fantasy Lounges up and running at AT&T Stadium (Dallas Cowboys), where “DraftKings players will gain access and opportunity to cheer, and even high-five, NFL stars as they charge through the tunnel to take the field.” Add Gillette Stadium (Patriots), Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City), and Levi’s Stadium (San Francisco) to the list. Next year, the world.

Resistance is futile.

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Why on Earth should it be illegal for consenting adults to gamble on sports? Yeah, it's an incredibly stupid thing to do, but do we really want the government telling us we can only do what's "smart" or "good for us"? Who gets to decide?

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