Can We Eradicate ‘Fantasy Sports Gambling’?

One lingering thought from yesterday’s post about the owner who has been charged with supporting illegal gambling …

If you clicked through to the report in the first link from that article, you might have noticed that it was a post from an actual gambling site. You might also have noticed that it referred to as a “fantasy sports gambling site.”

This wouldn’t be a big issue were it an isolated reference. After all, the trouble surrounding the now-dead racing site is that a state investigation uncovered illegal gaming practices.

However, in our tracking of fantasy material throughout the Web, comes across way too many articles that refer to “fantasy sports gambling” as a regular practice. Often, such material appears on gambling and/or casino portals.

Now, it’s understandable why such outlets might want to paint that kind of picture. The federal UIGEA has severely restricted what they are able to do online, while specifically carving out true fantasy sports online practices as legal. If your interests center on hosting online poker, virtual slot machines, etc., you’d likely try to align your efforts with those of fantasy sports sites. After all, if you could convince lawmakers that your games are just like those legal fantasy contests only without the athletes, then maybe they’d relax the regulations and give you more online flexibility.

Well, it’s crap. The federal government has clearly drawn the lines between illegal gambling and legal fantasy sports. Is there some luck involved in our games? Sure. Is there near the amount that you’d find in blackjack or even Texas Hold ‘Em? Nope.

The only thing accomplished by trying to cast fantasy sports as gambling is sullying the “fantasy” label for folks who might not be that familiar with the games or the UIGEA. What can we do about it? Unfortunately, we probably can’t do a whole lot other than to be aware of the practice and try to make sure the average consumer knows the difference.

That’s the job of fantasy-game operators and a site like


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6 Responses to “Can We Eradicate ‘Fantasy Sports Gambling’?”

  1. Rick Phillips Says:

    I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. allen tippy Says:


    Really though, who are we trying to kid? It’s all gambling, especially the daily fantasy cash game sites. You bet money on the outcome of the performance of players, of which you have absolutely no control over. Is there some skill? Yes. Of course you don’t start Ryan Howard against a lefty breaking ball pitcher. But that’s about as far as the skill set goes. Once you make that ’skill’ decision, the outcome is completely out of your hands.

    What we really need to do a better job of is educating people and making them realize that IT IS GAMBLING - and you better carefully treat it as such. Once people see it for what it really is, then they can do a much better job of protecting themselves from fraudsters like FantasyThunder, or the other sites charging usury like commissions.

    Take a look at what Snapdraft charges for a daily fantasy cash game: Bet 5 to win 3. Can anyone on the planet beat those odds and juice? No. You want fraud, that’s fraud. If we did a better job educating people to be better gamblers, they wouldn’t get fleeced like this. One guys takes your money and goes to jail, a fantasy site does it through exorbitant juice and it’s just ‘good business”. Come on.

  3. Matt Schauf Says:

    There’s a lot of luck at play in determining whether a hitter in baseball singles or lines out to right, and his payout will often fluctuate based on uncontrollable factors such as how writers vote for MVP or the fans pick the All-Stars. Does that equate playing baseball with gambling?

    I’m not here to defend the specific practices of individual fantasy sites, and isn’t looking to draw its own line between illegal gambling and legal pay-to-play. The federal government has already done that.

    Referring to fantasy sports as “fantasy sports gambling” looks to me at this point like sour grapes, an attempt at obfuscation or both.

  4. allen tippy Says:


    I guess we can put any label we want on it: fantasy sports betting, gambling on fantasy sports, fantasy sports contests for money, etc.. Whatever. My basic point here is that it IS gambling for money on the outcome of a sporting event, no matter how you look at it. People shouldn’t expect that just because something is labeled ‘fantasy sports’ that it doesn’t carry the same risks as normal gambling. I think maybe we are trying to convey the same message, just in a different way.

    Handicapping real games and handicapping fantasy games takes the same skill set. Unfortunately, one of these activities is illegal in most places while the other is legal. Curiously, the illegal activity requires a 52.5% win rate to break even, while the legal activity requires a 62.5% win rate to break even. Do you think the government actually considered this? I’m not sure that the government envisioned the evolution of fantasy sports to the point where you can bet every single day on fantasy matchups. I’m pretty sure they mostly had season long leagues in mind and were probably influenced greatly by the lobbyists of the major entertainment conglomerates that run most of these season long leagues. I very much doubt the group of political dinosaurs even have any real clue what fantasy sports are and how they have currently evolved. Somehow I don’t see Nancy Pelosi getting ready for her daily fantasy MLB betting matchups.

    While it may be a case of ’sour grapes’ as you assert, it doesn’t mean that those asserting sour grapes are wrong. At many illegal online sports books you can find single player prop bets that the government considers illegal. But the government says it legal if you group those prop bets together? I can see where the online sports books could reason ’sour grapes’, but I can’t really argue that they are wrong in their assertion.

    My point here isn’t to argue about which sites are legal or illegal, or even where the gambling line is. My point for the readers is that they should be fully aware that when you are betting money on the outcome of highly uncertain events, it runs very close to gambling - and it they should be careful to treat it is such. There are some ugly characters in the world of gambling - caveat emptor.

  5. Henry Says:

    You make some good points Allen… and I hear and agree with you that readers should be more aware… though isn’t the government already saying it’s gambling by including it (via the carve out) in the UIGEA? Horseracing gets a similar exemption, and I don’t think anyone is confusing that with a game of skill.

    Personally, I’m more concerned about fantasy sports companies (some big, some small) that are leveraging extremely liberal interpretations of the fantasy carve out in their business models. You have a bunch of operators resizing their games and paying out based upon participation instead of fixed guarantees - that’s an absolute no-no. If you’re not going to follow the carveout guidelines you’re in the same company as FantasyThunder.

    Also, while Snapdraft may rake 25% they do have a legal business which offers some protections that offshore books don’t. Those protections come at a cost. I’m not saying they’re not over charging, but maybe that’s what it takes to be a viable business.

  6. Matt Schauf Says:

    Let me say, too, that I don’t necessarily think it would be wrong for gaming operators whose practices are outlawed to try to argue for the viability of their competitions. I’m always in favor of reasoned arguments that take into account all relevant information — such as Allen’s here — no matter which side I might stand on.

    For me, the “sour grapes” come in referring to fantasy games as “fantasy sports gambling,” which I think passive-aggressively tries to cast them into the bin of what the government has outlawed without any other commentary or explanation.

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