Sports betting is illegal in most of America but fantasy sports is not. Why is this? Because, apparently, sports betting is gambling and fantasy sports is not.
How do I know fantasy sports is not gambling?
Well, the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act – which effectively sidelined online poker and disallowed most Internet gambling – created an exception for fantasy sports. Meanwhile, the NFL operates nfl.com/fantasy, the NBA is an investor in FanDuel, a fantasy Web site, and MLB co-sponsors a daily contest with DraftKings, another fantasy site.
Plus, on those endless FanDuel TV commercials, at the bottom of the screen run the words, “This is not a gambling site.”
Which, my friends, would be like saying, when they were building the Pyramids, “This is not a construction site.”
So, actually, let me state this as clearly as I can:
FANTASY SPORTS IS GAMBLING.
Now, I have nothing against gambling; I’m quite pro-gambling. I just hate it when people pretend something is not gambling. Poker players and sports bettors are labeled gamblers and often scorned by non-gamblers. Yet Wall Street – essentially the biggest casino in the nation, plus it’s kind of rigged – is not labeled gambling.
(People always worry about point-shaving in sports, when a player might throw a game to benefit bettors. How about insider trading? Heck, comparing point-shaving to insider trading is like comparing a rain shower to a monsoon. Hardly any game is ever fixed; by contrast, nefarious stock machinations occur on a daily basis.)
So, yes, stock trading is gambling and, yes, fantasy sports is gambling.
Frankly, there’s nothing about fantasy that is fantastical. The reality of fantasy – as is almost always the case in gambling enterprises – is that most people lose their money.
And now, with the growth of daily or “one-day” fantasy sports, more people are losing than ever.
It sounds so quaint and benign: You can either play against your friends or play against large pools of strangers, where everyone puts together their fantasy team and sees who performs best.
Except that it’s gambling – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates that 41 million Americans participate in fantasy sports, a 25 percent increase in the past four years. That means one in eight Americans now has another reason to bury their head in tablets and smartphones.
(It’s hard to put an exact number on this, but in the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, I suspect the empire collapses about 70 years sooner if fantasy sports were around then.)
The guy typing furiously on his keyboard in the cubicle next to you at work? He’s not preparing tomorrow’s presentation, he’s completing his NBA fantasy lineup for that night.
If orange is the new black, fantasy is the new porn. Fantasy used to be a seasonal, part-time recreation; now it’s a daily pursuit for many who never previously had made a wager. It’s the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes of sports betting – for little risk, you seemingly can reap a reward of life-changing money.
(On those FanDuel TV spots they roll out some guy who won, like, $800,000 last week, accompanied by the on-screen message, “Results may vary.” That’s like showing Brad Pitt landing Robin Givens, Juliette Lewis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie at a dating site and telling viewers, “Results may vary.”)
I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to gamble, or doing whatever you want to do. But I do fear for an America in which everyone turns inward – eyes glued on mobile devices – playing online poker, shopping at Amazon, staring at naked women, posting Instagrams of bacon desserts and maniacally clicking the name of Odell Beckham Jr. to fill out your fantasy roster.
Actually, it’s probably healthier to be on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, trying not to lose the mortgage while shouting out soybean future commodity orders. At least you get out of the house.
Q. How long do you think it will take Oliver Stone to crank out a movie about the recanted pass interference call in the Lions-Cowboys game? (Kim Hemphill; South Riding, Va.)
A. Howdy Doody already has been cast in the role of Jason Garrett.
Q. If the NFL refs had been willing to “pick up the flag” for you, do you think you could have avoided a couple of your divorces? (Don Pollins; Hyattsville, Md.)
A. Officiating didn’t kill me, turnovers did.
Q. I’m 72 and expecting to live until 100 – do you think the Lions will win a playoff game by then? (Jim Lanctot; Indianapolis)
A. If they ever re-hire Wayne Fontes. He’s available and he’s only 74.
Q. In football, when doesn’t it depend on the spot? (Jim Mannella; Pittsburgh)
A. Someone needs to tell Joe Buck this.
Q. If quarterbacks insure their arm and opera singers insure their voice, should Johnny Manziel insure his middle finger? (Jack Leininger; Spokane, Wash.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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