The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Watch games in our daily-fantasy gambling lounges,’ say leagues that oppose sports gambling

(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

NFL teams are going all-in on their association with daily fantasy sports site DraftKings, slapping the company’s name on parts of their stadiums.

In case you aren’t a male between the ages of 18 and 49, daily fantasy sports consists of contests in which people fill out a lineup of players they think will have big games that day. Owners of top-scoring teams win cash from sites such as DraftKings.

In other words, you are gambling on sports.

But it’s not considered “sports gambling.”

Got it?

This is all thanks to a 2006 federal law that prohibits point-spread gambling over the Internet but crafts an exception for fantasy sports, because the “outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants and are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of individuals.”

So, because daily fantasy sports gambling is fine with the federal government, it’s fine with pro-sports leagues. Major League Baseball and the NHL have financial agreements with DraftKings, while the NBA has a deal with rival FanDuel. Plus, 45 professional teams have separate agreements with one of the two sites. Twenty-one of them are NFL teams.

But don’t you dare bet on a point spread, because that would be wrong. So said the four major professional sports leagues, along with the NCAA, in their legal opposition to New Jersey’s attempt at allowing sports gambling in the state. It would “irreparably” corrupt sports in the United States, they say.

And on Tuesday, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with them, shooting down New Jersey’s latest stab at legalizing sports gambling.

It wasn’t all bad news for people who like sports gambling, and the companies that legally offer it based on a flimsy-reasoned government edict.

“The bigger winner today is the daily fantasy companies who now have the legal sports gambling space all to themselves for years to come,” said Daniel L. Wallach, a sports and gambling lawyer at Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., told the New York Times. “The sports leagues benefited again as well, because now they get to control the timing of when and how legal sports betting eventually gets implemented.”

But until then, please limit your sports gambling to daily fantasy, and please do so in our branded lounges.