Pro sports commissioners from the NBA, NFL, and MLB are all in agreement that playing daily fantasy sports (DFS) does not constitute gambling, but all also concur that the market is in serious need of regulation and oversight.
It’s a rather stark contrast from DraftKings CEO Jason Robins describing what his company offers as a “mashup between poker and fantasy sports” just three years ago. “The concept is almost identical to a casino,” Robins said at the time.
During three separate interviews with ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver all expressed supportive views on the budding daily fantasy contests.
“Fantasy is not gambling, in my view,” Manfred said. Though Goodell is adamantly opposed to the legalization of traditional sports betting as he feels it could comprise the integrity of the game, he wholeheartedly welcomes DFS.
“We believe daily fantasy is different than that (sports betting) because it’s essentially a matchup of players,” Goodell stated. “There is not influence so that it can influence the outcome of a game.”
Poker advocates argue that if DFS doesn’t constitute gambling and is fundamentally skill-based, then so is the card game.
In both formats, the house acts only as a facilitator of the game, daily fantasy operators receiving entry fees while poker venues take rakes. And unlike the majority of other gambling ventures, in poker and DFS players try to outwit their opponents.
However, for reasons unbeknownst to poker enthusiasts, their game will linger in the gambling realm while DFS pushes to create a new betting but not gambling industry.
If there’s one thing most agree on, it’s that regardless of whether daily fantasy involves skill or luck, or perhaps a little of both, it’s that the market needs regulation.
“The biggest concern is the one that attracted the most publicity,” Manfred explained. “You want to make sure that the fantasy organizations have appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that things are fair.”
The NBA’s Adam Silver concurred by saying, “I think regulation is in order. People should know what percent of the pool of money is paid out in the same way you would at a track or at any other event where wagering is involved.”
New York Attorney Investigating
The big four sports leagues all have vested interests in permitting daily fantasy due to minority ownerships in DraftKings and FanDuel, which is why they are understandably campaigning for regulation over restriction.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is looking a bit deeper.
“These are totally unregulated gambling venues,” Schneiderman revealed on CBS October 8. “DraftKings and FanDuel have no public regulation, they are exempt from the Internet Gambling Act of 2006.”
The Fantasy Sports Trade Association is taking the first proactive measure, announcing the formation of the Fantasy Sports Control Agency this week to create a “strict, transparent and effective system of self-regulation.”
Schneiderman doesn’t believe self-regulation will suffice.
“At the end of the day we’re going to see government regulation. This is a big business that did not exist when the statute of Internet gambling was passed,” he concluded.