Fantasy Sports has gained wider legal acceptance, but sports bettors want more
Let's flashback to the Summer of 2015. A year before the Cubs ended 108 years of misery and a season before Tom Brady was set to lead the Patriots to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Fantasy sports wagering or what's more popular known as DFS was exploding into our culture. Advertising for leading brands Fan Duel and Draft Kings was eclipsing Geico and Nike on ESPN and other television sports networks. DFS was the biggest thing since well, night baseball. That is, night baseball where you could win thousands by predicting in a legal contest format who could say, hit the most home runs combined with hits and RBI's in one evening. All was fine with all four major U.S. sports leagues including the ultra-conservative NFL, who was largely the most supportive.
Ironically, the NFL mocked its most stringent code word of "integrity" by allowing DFS advertising to be permitted directly inside stadiums and freely enjoyed the immense new audience of young participants it brought into the game. Everybody was happy and it was first and ten for all involved to make a great deal of money.
Maybe too much money. As the sound that's been loudly heard since has been U.S. Federal & State Governments protesting "where is our cut of the cash"? Right behind is the endless legal argument: Are these strictly and objectively games of skill or luck? Enter 178 opportunistic political forces and 3,594 lawyers. Goodbye fantasy and welcome to reality.
Where's Our Cut?
It is amazing contrasting the DFS landscape in only two short years. While Fan Duel and Draft Kings softly try to merge raising capital to obtain money for their legal survival, gone are the million dollar paydays for salivating, loyal fans. Also disappeared are every-five-minute ad on ESPN and major networks to promote enourmous jackpots and parties. Not only that but the leagues have distanced themselves from DFS until the picture becomes clearer and legalized. Whether it involves federal or state legislation, that support and financing is long gone. Hey, just when you need your friends most.
Recently, as many as 11 states have better defined their laws involving fantasy sports wagering. It was finally settled last year in New York, a key state where a major percentage of DFS action has taken place. This week the New Jersey State Assembly overwhelming voted for approval but with a major 10.5% gross revenue share on DFS providers. Like a casino, it would be expected that it's patrons would inevitably pay for that. No doubt, unlike legalizing pure sports wagering, this will be a state-by-state issue with no federal laws likely to be pursued. Therefore, each state will clearly know their slice of the pie and dictate rules of "skill-game contest wagering".
But lookout fantasy players. Inside these laws will be certain stipulations attaching them to laws involving potential issues such as Native American wagering (if involved in that specific state). Also in the murky waters this week is a legal victory for the Stronach Group, owner of Pimlico Race Course, site of the Preakness. The Stronach Group successfully sued Derby Wars, who have run horse racing contests, set-up similar to DFS. Previously Derby Wars have not paid outside participation interests. That has subsequently spilled over to the "skill vs luck" contest legal argument and yet may affect upcoming DFS legislation.
Sports Betting Reality
While endless U.S. courtroom debate and political babble takes place involving DFS, the luster of its excitement and potential of giant jackpot prizes has dwindled immensely. I can't imagine million dollar paydays being advertised for who will be winning this year's U.S. Open in golf nor seeing dozens of commercials sprinkled onto Monday Night Football. The bottom line is where would the dollars be coming from to pay off the glory "contests" many fantasy lovers have enjoyed from the past? Surely not enough from current members paying $10 to $20 getting into action with a far smaller player pool.
Adding to Nevada and offshore sportsbook's joy are new lobbyist groups currently forming to stop government's interference further getting involved taxing U.S. participants. Meanwhile the subjective "Skill vs. Luck" argument predicting multiple individual player acts in sports compared to specific team game outcomes may go on for years. Add onto this lobbying groups who simply want all forms of gambling to desist.
Therefore, simply selecting whether the New Orleans Saints may cover +3.5 at the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football this September is back in vogue and thriving. And you can still bet on the upcoming Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals this week in Las Vegas or at any of the top online sportsbooks. We may not obtain our fantasy of winning a million dollars in one day, but the REALITY will have to keep us all happy in-between. Like Billy Joel once sang...." it's just a fantasy, it's not the real thing...
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.