Why Daily Fantasy Sports Is Redefining Gambling
What is gambling? It’s a new question with an old-aged answer. The creation of daily fantasy sports necessitates a change in our country’s legal definition of gambling. Ever since DraftKings and FanDuel attracted the attention of politicians looking to get a slice of their multi-billion dollar businesses for state funds (free money off of someone else’s idea!), the companies have had to hire high-priced lawyers to defend the legality of their businesses. In court, the debate centers around one key issue: does daily fantasy sports involve more skill or more chance? If it is predominantly chance, then under most state laws it constitutes gambling and states have the authority to outlaw or regulate it. However, if it is predominantly a game of skill, as the companies contend, then it is not gambling and federal law exempts it from state regulation.Here is the problem. Gambling should NOT be narrowly defined as a game dominated by chance. Just look at the varying categories of gambling. There is a clear continuum of games that are almost entirely chance, games that require greater levels of skill and games that fall in the middle of that spectrum. Lotto, for example, is clearly chance-dominated. How on earth can anyone predict what Ping-Pong balls will pop out of that oscillating hamster wheel? Roulette is also mainly chance. The same goes for backgammon and most dice-dependent games. Now how about horse racing? Racing requires a little more skill because players are selecting horses. Bettors factor in past performances and weigh probabilities and circumstantial factors. But, horse racing also involves a fair amount of chance. The bettor is at the mercy of the outcome and athletic performances in that one race. Poker, on the other hand involves a sophisticated level of skill. However, in poker there is still a good deal of chance because cards are randomly dealt. In fact, the initial hand dramatically impacts subsequent play and outcome. As we move up the ladder, consider chess, which undoubtedly involves more skill than chance. Chess involves so much skill that it is not considered gambling. Rather, it is a tournament that often requires an entry fee and results in a prize. So we see that varying levels of skill can be integral to “gambling” games, but when a certain level of skill is reached, as in chess, the game falls off the gambling spectrum.
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