It depends who you ask…
There is still quite a debate going about the status of Daily Fantasy Sports. Is it gambling? Is it not gambling?
What’s the big deal anyway? Basically, some lawmakers and many other people view Daily Fantasy Sports as a form of gambling. The DFS industry does not want to be classified as gambling because it would lead to regulations, restrictions or even being shut down like the online poker industry years ago.
The current laws were written before Daily Fantasy Sports took off so it isn’t exactly clear on the matter. A few states have taken a clear side and DFS sites have blocked residents of certain states from participating on their sites for legal purposes. Currently, the big DFS sites serve a majority of the United States but the battle will surely rage on for the foreseeable future.
Let’s take a quick look at the two sides as I understand them:
Daily Fantasy Sports IS Gambling
There is a pretty strong argument that Daily Fantasy Sports should be considered gambling. Merriam Webster defines gamble like this:
1a : to play a game for money or property
1b : to bet on an uncertain outcome
2 to stake something on a contingency : take a chance
To me, it seems like DFS matches both of those descriptions pretty well. But those are just definitions. Gambling in a legal sense is a much more complex issue that I’ll leave to the lawyers.
It is worth noting that DFS seems to have grown out of the now-banned online gambling sites. Some of the same terms and concepts are even used by people involved with Daily Fantasy Sports.
My biggest concern is that gambling addictions are real and I don’t want anyone to get in trouble or lose things that they shouldn’t. And I think if you have had issues with gambling in the past, Daily Fantasy Sports could present some problems for you.
Daily Fantasy Sports Is NOT Gambling
The big argument that Daily Fantasy Sports supporters often make is that it is a game of skill. Apparently meaning that it’s more like a contest where the person doing the best job researching and creating a lineup gets rewarded for it. Kind of like when you were a kid and there was a coloring contest. That other kid that colored all the time and had the nicest crayons and markers would always get their page hung up on the wall.
I can see the validity of this argument as well. There is obviously some skill involved. Not just picking lineups but choosing the right contests, picking the right number of lineups to enter, managing your funds and finding suitable opponents. In fact, some people make their livings off of it because they are so good at it.
There is also the argument that DFS is just for entertainment. For many people, I feel that’s true. Some people drop $20 to go to the theater and see a new movie. Why shouldn’t I be able to spend a few bucks and make some lineups and see how they do?
My Humble Opinion
This is a tough one. I’m going to resort to the old noncommittal answer: It is what you make it. Could I bet my next mortgage payment in the Million Dollar contest? Sure, but I’m going to stick to the free games because I don’t have that kind of money just lying around. And I know as a beginner, if I tried to go compete with the pros I’m going to get taken for everything I have anyway.
By definition, DFS seems to be a form of gambling the way most people play it. But should it be shut down? I don’t think so. From the articles I’ve read from a year or two ago, the DFS sites seem to have already made pretty big strides to clean up their act, make it more fair for beginners and take steps to help people with addictions stay out of trouble.
Personally, the biggest reason I feel like I’m not “gambling” in a bad sense is that you can play completely for free. In fact, I’ve never deposited a dime of my own money on any of the sites but I usually play at least one lineup every day on DraftKings. And I guess, since I’m not wagering any of my own money, it’s NOT gambling. For me, it’s more like a coloring contest. I just have to sharpen my crayons… er, research and you’ll see my name up on the wall some day.