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Daily Fantasy Sports to Suffer the Same Fate as Online Poker?

The legality of daily fantasy sports is being scrutinized. Forbes and New York Times have published articles on their respective websites that include a variety of opinions on the subject.

Joshua Brustein (@joshuabrustein), author of The New York Times article, “Fantasy Sports and Gambling: Line is Blurred,” joined us on Daily Fantasy Radio Live to talk about the legality of daily fantasy sports recently. StarStreet representatives Jeremy Levine and Peter Jennings were also present. You’ll find that discussion here.

Bob Bowman Daily Fantasy Sports Coin Flip

Robert Bowman

Robert Bowman, chief executive of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, thinks that daily fantasy sports “becomes akin to a flip of the coin, which is the definition of gambling.” To me, this opinion tastes like an ice cold glass of ignorance.

A staggering amount of research goes into predicting the performance of professional athletes. Being able to do so correctly, every day, and winning consistently against other knowledgeable daily fantasy sports players is more difficult to do without a team of fortune tellers. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have access to my own personal divination squad.

Analyzing statistics and making decisions based on collected data sounds a lot more like taking stock market advice from Warren Buffet than it does throwing dice with Warren G, don’t you think?

The implication that daily fantasy sports is “a flip of the coin” is like saying a person is really good at having their name randomly selected out of a hat. It just doesn’t compute, and if you did the research that we do, it becomes blatantly obvious.

Daily fantasy sports are games of skill. If you’re playing against a better player, you will eventually lose all of your money regardless of your performance in any individual game.

The perception of the general public is up for grabs through media outlets, and it’s easy to see how views can become skewed with ignorance. People emulate what they see, read, and hear. That exposure stimulates a trail of mutating information plagued with biased and manipulative content from the start.

In Darren Heitner’s (@DarrenHeitner) Forbes article, entitled “Daily Fantasy Sports Games Defend Legality of Their Services,” international gaming lawyer and accountant Stuart Hoegner was quoted, “In betting formats, the leagues are threatened by innovation that they don’t spearhead or control.” He hit the nail on the head for daily fantasy sports (and for a lot of what’s wrong with corporations in America, but that’s an entirely different article).

On the other hand, Mr. Brustein’s article quotes Ryan Rodenberg, assistant professor of sports law at Florida State University: “On the spectrum of legality to illegality, they’re getting pretty close to the line. It’s tough to make an intellectually honest distinction between the two.”

Intellectually honest? It’s hard to find anything intellectual in that opinion at all. It reminds me of listening to ignorant politicians babble about the evils of online poker prior to Black Friday. Look at the sense of entitlement that brick and mortar Las Vegas casino moguls held over a controlling market share of online poker traffic, a market they declined to get involved with originally. It’s truly reprehensible.

Just be intellectually honest with us: people in a position of money and power hate a lack of control.

Imagine if Apple Inc. targeted a wildly successful product from another company and forced them to stop selling it through legal chicanery. Suppose Apple began to manufacture and sell this product as their own. What kind of precedent would that set? Why don’t we restrict the size of the sodas that restaurants sell to prevent obesity, or lobby millions of dollars preventing the labeling of GMOs on food products to restrict the choices made by free people?

I know I’m getting off track here, but it all boils down to one main point: Money is power. Companies want your money and don’t mind using their power to manipulate your ability to choose. Educate yourself and consider boycotting a company that inhibits that ability. Companies should earn your trust and patronage with great products and great service, not shady dealings and throat-slitting monopolistic maneuvers.

The daily fantasy sports industry is growing at a rapid pace, in part due to the amount of exposure it receives in the news. We can expect a cacaphony of opportunistic subjugators to try and carve out a slice of the pie for themselves.

About the Author
Christopher Leather comes from a poker background and brings his analytical skills to the table for daily fantasy strategy. Obsessed with thinking critically about variables and extracted information, follow his descent into madness as his brain pot overflows and spills out into his articles.

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  1. Spencer Reply

    Good article. You bring up a lot of good points on this seemingly complicated issue. However, I wanted to address a few things in your article:

    The quote of “On the spectrum of legality to illegality, they’re getting pretty close to the line. It’s tough to make an intellectually honest distinction between the two”, carries some weight when looking at Daily Fantasy Sports. For example, it is illegal for me to make a prop bet on the NBA regarding who will have more points + assists: Jrue Holiday or Paul George? However, if I am participating in one of the many pick ‘em games on DFS sites, I am essentially making that same decision and wagering money on it, but it is considered legal. I understand that salary cap entries can be argued as a game of skill, as they are a little more complicated, but Pick ‘em games can ultimately be viewed as a series of prop bets, which really starts to blur the line of legality.

    • luke Reply

      @spencer The main thing you fail to consider in your pickem scenario is that in dfs the pickem skill of 1 player is pitted against the pickem skill of another player. Neither player has an inherent advantage before factoring skill levels, neither player sets the lines to increase action on both side, and neither player takes money out for themselves before the game. In essence it is a fair and even game before the skill of each player is considered.

      Your prop bet comparison is flawed because you are playing against the bookmaker that not only sets the lines, but also takes a cut out of your wager against them. They want to win and have self interest in the game while DFS sites have 0 interest in who wins or loses.

      • Spencer Reply

        Yes, I understand the difference between two fantasy enthusiasts playing against each other, and a bettor placing a wager against a sportsbook. However, I find it questionable that I am essentially making the exact same decision (or series of decisions) using the same knowledge, research, and skill (the key word in defining legality) when I’m playing DFS and placing a prop bet. That, in my opinion, is pretty close to the line of legal wagers vs illegal gambling.

        If the key to legal status was player vs player (instead of player vs book), that should mean March Madness bracket pools with an entry fee should be legal (which they aren’t). After all, people are picking multiple games straight up, user vs user, using their handicapping skill and knowledge against each other (much like a GPP in DFS).

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