Anyone who watched a football game over the weekend was subjected to a nonstop bombardment of fantasy football advertisements. The two biggest players, Draft Kings and FanDuel, reportedly spent “a combined $31 million for roughly 9,000 national television spots” just last week. But all that exposure seems to have resulted in some unwanted attention.
In a letter to House committee chairs, New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone Jr. called for congressional hearings on the relationship between the NFL and commercial fantasy leagues.
“Fans are currently allowed to risk money on the performance of an individual player,” Pallone said in the letter. “How is that different than wagering money on the outcome of a game?”
A loophole in U.S. law allows people to stake and win money on “games of skill,” which fantasy football is deemed to be. There’s obviously an enormous grey area here in suggesting that fantasy football is different from traditional sports betting as we know it. The “skill” involved in assembling a winning fantasy football team doesn’t seem all that different from the skill required to pick a winning sports bet.
But the law says otherwise. The two points that need to be met in order to avoid classification as a “game of chance” is that the outcome of the wager can’t be dependent on just one outcome (or game), and has an outcome that’s predicated on the skill of manipulation by the wagerer. Fantasy football meets both these criteria, so under current laws, FanDuel and Draft Kings can continue to do what they do with little risk of being shut down or prosecuted.
But in his letter, Pallone described the legal landscape surrounding the sites as “murky at best,” and claimed such ambiguity makes fantasy sites “ripe for congressional oversight.”
The fact that Pallone is from New Jersey is probably no coincidence. The state has been trying (unsuccessful) to legalize sports gambling for years, but has been blocked at every turn by federal judges. Perhaps he is incensed by the fact that these sites are making millions while his state is left on the sidelines. Or maybe he’s just a real buzzkill.
(Source: Roll Call)