Fantasy Football: Nothing More than Glorified Gambling?

By Jacob Cummis “If you own a television, you cannot have missed their ads,” said the host of the Sunday night HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, leading off his twenty minute rant on daily fantasy sports, something many around school have or regularly participate in week after week. Daily fantasy sports, spearheaded by companies such as DraftKings & FanDuel, give participants the ability to select the players they think will provide the best output of points for the day or week that they decide to play. You never have to have the same team twice. The goal—to win money—is the same as any normal fantasy league, but, with this format, you can put your fantasy skills to the test whenever you feel like it, and your winnings will normally be finalized and handed out as soon as the next day. Great, sign me up! Oh, wait, there is one thing I forgot to mention: the price of playing. You can play daily fantasy sports as much as you’d like, that part is true—as long as you are willing to put forth the money necessary to participate in these “games of skill,” according to DraftKings CEO Jason Robins. In order to select a new team every week, you have to supply some amount of money to enter into a contest pool with however many other hopefuls, obviously with the aspiration of winning more back, and the subsequent risk of losing whatever sum you wagered altogether. Comparisons between daily fantasy sports and gambling are about as easy to draw as a connect-the-dots picture. However, DraftKings & FanDuel insist that their products are skill based, and they have to if they wish to distinguish themselves from something other than gambling. If these companies convince the public, and now lawmakers, too, that their self-proclaimed games of skill are just that, then they would be able to squash all comparisons to gambling, which is entirely luck. Of course, it is possible to gain advantages, some illegal, while gambling, but at the simplest level, gambling is all luck. So I decided to use my skills and test my luck with daily fantasy, and determine, for myself, once and for all if indeed it is or isn’t gambling. Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 11.04.27 AM As I attempted to create an account, I noticed a lack of information that FanDuel, the $company I decide to go with, requested of me to give them upon creation of my account. There wasn’t even a box to check that would specify my age. By clicking the “Play Now” button, though, I do assert the fact that I am at least eighteen years old, which, shockingly, I am not. That little age aspect, however, can easily be missed, as it is presumably intentionally placed below the “Play Now” button. Now, I wouldn’t expect these sites to make sure that all players are of twenty-one years old as a way to further disconnect themselves from the likes of gambling. Even so, if that’s the card that these companies are attempting to play, it’s odd to even address the age aspect at all. As soon as I hit “Play Now,” I was directed to a screen where I was forced to enter in credit card information. Initially, I was reluctant to do so, because I was unaware how the entire system worked. I eventually put my info in, and deposited the minimum amount of $10. I was then brought to a page of open contests. I ended up joining the contest below. pICTURE DOS Above are all the guidelines to the contest I entered, which were less important to me than the actual prize of this particular contest: the top 23,000/53,000 entries would double their money, turning $5 into $10, while the losing entries would surrender their $5, but enjoy the fun experience of playing daily fantasy sports with FanDuel. Again, it is hard not see the obvious similarity between this contest and casino-favorite Blackjack. In each game, the end result is two distinct possibilities: double your bet, or lose it all. Now, a dealer is only present in one of these games, but in both, the winnings are handed out and loses collected by the house. In this case, the house is either the casino or FanDuel. Then I picked my team… PHOTOTRES …and waited for Sunday. By the end of the slate of games on Sunday, I was in pretty good position to double my wager, and a strong showing from new Bears starting running back Jeremy Langford on Monday Night Football only solidified my hopes. My entry finished at 17,939, well within the winning realm, and then the next day I was given my $5 entry back as well as $5 I was awarded from finishing in the in one of the top 23,000 places. And that was that. So, are daily fantasy sports gambling? I asked a few friends, and received a brief array of responses. One of my friends, whom has requested to remain anonymous, thinks “it’s the same as horse racing, which is considered a game of skill, legally,” the response that executives of DraftKings & FanDuel welcome greatly. Contrastingly, Philip Hinkes stated that daily fantasy sports are “100% gambling.” To help frame a more skill-based environment, daily fantasy sites assign a price, or value, to each player based on whether they think that player has a good matchup or is a sleeper for the week. Regarding the pricing aspect of the games, Hinkes added that, “because prices are reflections of a player’s true value, whether or not a player outperforms their value is entirely random. It is 50/50 whether or not a player will outperform their value. Because of this, winning at daily fantasy sports is equivalent to flipping a coin.” The two ideas that were presented to me are exactly what is being decided by state legislators this instance, legally determining whether these games are that of skill or forms of gambling. If you are still not convinced on which side you stand, take this quote from business entrepreneur and regular daily fantasy sports user Steven Schwartz into consideration. “I have spent thousands betting on [daily fantasy] football, and it is more gambling than skill.” Even despite a positive output from my experience participating in daily fantasy sports, economically, I cannot see any differences between transferring your money to one of the sites and placing a chip on a table. To me, the sites should be considered gambling, in which case, all of us at school have been, illegally, underaged gambling. Good thing for us that, technically, as of right now, these “games” aren’t considered gambling, so we should not face any legal issues. Don’t worry. So, you may want to think about getting a couple more entries in soon, because it is just a matter of time until Illinois state legislators catch on to what DraftKings & FanDuel are actually up to. What do you think? Share your opinion and spark some conversation in the comments below.]]>