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It's not gambling? THERE'S THE FANTASY

An employee at work in DraftKings’ Boston office. Watch football? You’ve seen the commercials.

New York Times

An employee at work in DraftKings’ Boston office. Watch football? You’ve seen the commercials.

Not the NFL or NBA or Major League Baseball. And certainly not the fantasy industry.

All claim that picking a virtual team and wagering money on its performance is different from picking a real team and wagering money on its performance.

The first is legal because it's based on skill. The second isn't because it's based on chance.

Feel free to laugh at the distinction.

Of course fantasy sports is gambling. And you know what — that's all right.

I'm not pro-gambling, but pragmatism says banning it would go about as well as Prohibition. Humans have vices, and if adults want to risk their paychecks on whether the Bucs will lose by fewer than 9.5 points, have at it. Most can gamble, get their kicks and walk away. The problem is about 5 percent of gamblers are prone to addiction and the financial and emotional ruin that it brings.

Congress outlawed online gambling in 2006. Fantasy sports were exempted, largely because they were seen as season-long hobbies based on camaraderie as much as cash.

Technology quickly evolved, and now anyone with a smart phone can pick a team in hopes of a huge daily payoff. And this isn't greyhound racing or Texas Hold'em. It's the NFL, America's pastime.

Take that lure, throw in unprecedented access, and daily fantasy is arguably the biggest gateway drug to gambling addiction in history.

Congress wants to review the 2006 law and potentially include fantasy sports. We need to at least tap the brakes and try to envision where the runaway freight train might be leading.

There aren't any comprehensive studies on its effect, but 56 million people will play this year.

That's a lot of potential fantasy crack addicts, and the biggest pushers are supposedly responsible companies like the Disney, the NBA, Fox, MLB, Comcast and Yahoo!

All have invested in daily fantasy sites. The NFL hasn't as a league, but 28 teams have deals with DraftKings or FanDuel.

They justify it by promoting the fiction that it's not about winning money. It's about a bunch of pals having a big time pretending to general managers.

They've somehow missed the 2.3 billion DraftKings and FanDuel commercials aired in the past month, all of which touted how much money you could win playing against thousands of online strangers.

"It's all about the win," Whyte said.

Companies also justify it by thinking how much money they'll make if fantasy sports continues to explode. If that leads to a quantum leap in addiction, maybe the NFL will provide free Uber rides to the nearest Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

By the way, that group is expected to soon adopt a new warning in its literature — if you want to recover from a gambling addiction, stay away from fantasy sports.

Websites, the leagues and ESPN should at least slap on a Surgeon General's-type warning telling players of fantasy's addictive dangers. Of course, that would admit there are dangers, and they can't have that.

It's easier to pretend it's nothing but good cheap fun and nobody gets harmed.

If you believe that, I have a 49ers quarterback I'd like to trade you.

— Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

C ongratulations if you had Devonta Freeman on your fantasy football team this week. And super-congratulations if you don't know what I'm talking about. • You are one of the few remaining Earthlings who hasn't been swept up in the fantasy tidal wave. • Millions are playing. Billions have gotten sick of the commercials. Sports leagues and media conglomerates are jumping into bed with daily fantasy sites. • Unless you have Colin Kaepernick as your quarterback, everybody is having a grand old time. • Nobody wants to talk about the looming downside. • "There's always a cost," Kevin Whyte said. "But right now there's an absence of recognizing there are any problems." • Whyte is executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. Wait, did somebody say g-g-gambling?

It's not gambling? THERE'S THE FANTASY 10/06/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 6, 2015 10:12pm]
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