Victor Cruz’s knee, Nick Foles’ clavicle and Josh Gordon’s fondness for recreational drugs all robbed NFL fans of enjoying their talents last season. But for about 33 million Americans, they presented an even more difficult challenge: Who’s going to get my fantasy points now?
From the beginning of August, two companies have bombarded the airwaves with over $101 million worth of fantasy football advertisements, boasting “no season-long commitments” and that “cash is instantly paid out.” The two rival companies—the New York-based FanDuel and the Boston-based DraftKings—present an even more specialized opportunity for fantasy sports junkies. They boast instant tax-free payouts to winners as soon as games are over, spawning a community of players with a united desire to win quickly and win big. Sound familiar?
Two weeks ago, a Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested a hearing on the legal status of fantasy sports websites like FanDuel and DraftKings and posed a very good point: What is the difference between gambling on point spreads, which is illegal, and picking a team of players and wagering on their output, which is legal in 45 states?
Each week, users can draft a team of various players that earn fantasy points based on their performance in NFL games. These sites have capitalized on the unquenchable thirst for fantasy football by adding in short-term commitments to draw in even the casual sports fans. Their argument against gambling is that participating in fantasy sports is about requires skill, and nothing is left to chance.
But let’s face the facts—playing fantasy sports is gambling. It’s why my older family members wouldn’t let me into their fantasy baseball league until I understood there were more teams than just the Yankees. It’s the loophole that allows more than 15 billion dollars to be wagered in the United States annually. Sports gambling should be legal in the United States on a fully regulated scale because of its international popularity.
What people fail to realize is that fantasy sports are already a healthy part of U.S. culture. At work, office leagues build friendly rivalries and camaraderie. And happy employees are productive ones, right?
Slowly but surely, the American mainstream media is becoming less anal about it. At one point in history Al Michaels’ weekly references to point spreads would have been grounds for exile from sports coverage. Now, ESPN has a feature during college football Saturdays that notifies viewers when a team is on the verge of covering a point spread.
As for sports gambling as a whole, there is a massive market waiting to be tapped into. Soccer in England has especially exploited this financial strategy. Much like the way Madison Square Garden is draped with DraftKings ads from every possible angle, British soccer stadiums have had digital ads for betting websites along the goal lines and on the sides of the grandstands.
There, gambling is legal and is embraced by the English Football Association. The government collects money not by taxing the individual winnings like a casino or game show in the United States but by taxing the online bookmaker.
New Jersey last year was close to getting sports betting legalized in its casinos and racetracks but was overturned by the third circuit court citing that “sports betting in New Jersey would cause irreparably corrupt sports in the United States.” Mike Bass, a spokesman for the NBA, said that “the path for legal sports betting is through Congress.”
With over $140 billion illegally gambled on sports in the United States every year, wouldn’t the federal government like to take their fair share like they do in every other realm of existence? They even tax you if you win on “The Price is Right!” Is anything sacred anymore?
Featured image credit: Andrew Dupont