Are Fantasy Sports Gambling?

I’m sure anyone who has browsed the Internet, watched TV, or seen any form of media within the last few months has been exposed to the copious amounts of fantasy sports advertisements. These ads invite users to create an account and participate in the fantasy sports of their choosing. This idea has been around for quite some time; however, these websites have begun offering options where users can deposit money into the website’s cache for a chance to win more than they deposited to their account. With millions of users on a website, this risk increases exponentially, but so does the potential reward. The chances of making a profit are slim, which is indicative of the dependence on chance to make a profit. This begs the question of whether or not this game of chance should be considered gambling, which is outlawed in the United States. This should not be mistaken for an accusation, merely a provocation of consideration.  There has been an explosion of contentious attention in this regard in recent news, as an employee of one of these websites reaped a very handsome reward of $350,000 from winnings in a tournament on a competitor’s site. The allegation is that this employee used inside statistical information from his own employer’s website, Draftkings, to gain a competitive advantage on a competitor’s website, Fan Duel, and subsequently stood to make a large profit. This event, regardless of whether or not the employee in question was indicted, raises the inquiries pertaining to the ethical system at work in this type of business model.

Fantasy football has slowly transformed from an entertaining hobby, embodied by sportsmanship and friendly rivalry, to a lucrative occupation overrun by stratagem and fierce competition. If that statement appears overtly prejudiced, that’s because I am. I myself participate in a fantasy football league with my friends every year. As a long time participant in this favorite pastime of mine, I have come to understand that, yes, while there is a certain degree of skill required – that being the capacity to read words and numbers – the majority of one’s success lies within the athletes one chooses during his or her draft. Seeing as one cannot tangibly control the proficiency of an athlete’s performance, the conclusion could be drawn that this is extremely reliant on chance. One could go even further as to say that this game of chance is quite comparable to those found at casinos, the likes of which are illegal in most of the country. They have taken an enjoyable fantasy and turned it into a capitalist venture. Having written this, I cannot deny that I believe I could be quite successful on these websites. However, if Marvel has taught me anything it’s that power and responsibility are a package deal. There is a reason exploitation is never cast in a positive light, and there is a reason it is the founding principle found in countless illegal deeds. I will leave it at that. Now, in regards to the aforementioned degree of chance associated with fantasy leagues, I feel the need to also highlight the fact that these websites, while could be considered unethical in nature, are not in fact illegal. Approximately nine years ago, the Supreme Court exonerated this controversial business model of online gambling, stating that it is in theory a game of skill and not of chance. This is not the first Supreme Court decision I have disagreed with, but I hardly think all of those are comparable to this one in specific. As I am sure I have made amply clear, I am not a gambling man, but if I were I would say that these lucrative fantasy sports sites are going to grow in number within the foreseeable future and will yield equally questionable publicity.

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