The Legality Of Daily Fantasy Football Enters Controversy

Fantasy Football is well underway as the 2015 football season has begun. Anyone who’s tuned into a football game so far has surely noticed the pervasiveness of daily fantasy sports commercials from companies like Fan Duel and Draft Kings. But what exactly are daily fantasy sports, and why are they legal? After all, it sounds very similar to internet gambling, which is illegal in the United States.

However, the NFL says they don’t consider fantasy games to be gambling, and the fantasy sports companies agree wholeheartedly. But now that fantasy football websites have promised payouts with real money, Congress has decided to take a closer look.

It began with one congressman from New Jersey, who brought the legality of online sports platforms to the attention of the government. Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey sent a letter to the GOP Leaders of the House Energy Commerce Committee. He states in the letter that he would like to “hold a hearing examining the relationship between professional sports and fantasy sports to review the legal status of fantasy sports betting.”

Pallone’s entire letter insinuates that the sport is illegal, discussing how some websites are now accepting fees and allotting prizes for their fantasy sports teams victories. The total prizes amount to more than a billion dollars in cash prizes. He also asserted that more than 57 million people from both the United States and Canada engage in fantasy sports, which means that if it turns out to be internet gambling after all, it could potentially be a widespread problem.

There seems to be some kind of loophole that makes this awarding of prizes completely legal. The biggest thing that fantasy sports have in their favor is that it’s working on more of a prize basis than gambling.

“I think it should be legal only because I don’t really see a problem with it,” Bruce Mclean, avid fantasy sports fan from Massachusetts told WWLP. “I don’t see who its hurting. To me it looks like people are gaining from it.”

And he’s not the only one who has that opinion. Millions are pushing to keep this form of “sports betting” legal, despite Pallone’s complaints.

It also fits under a specific loophole made in the 2006 law regarding sports betting. According to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, there is a specific exemption for Fantasy sports.

Fantasy sports have created quite the enterprise. Not only do they benefit from advertising on channels like ESPN, but they’ve also bred professional sports handicappers. Millions use their services when determining the outcome of a game and the best picks for a certain game. Shutting down this industry would shut down millions of jobs and severely hurt the sports industry.

It’s still unclear what Congress will decide to do about the current controversy that is fantasy sports. They may take it to court, or they may forget about it altogether and fantasy football, and all its glory, will go on like nothing ever happened.

[Image via Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]