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Daily fantasy sports: A fun new way to play or gambling masquerading as skill?

An employee holds US dollar banknotes at an Indonesian money changer's office in Jakarta on August 27, 2015.
An employee holds US dollar banknotes at an Indonesian money changer's office in Jakarta on August 27, 2015.

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Playing in a season-long fantasy football league with a bunch of your coworkers is so yesterday.

These days, it’s all about daily fantasy sports, where players have the chance to win huge sums of real money and don’t have to worry about remembering to set lineups every week or strategize long-term over the course of a season.

But with the skyrocketing popularity of sites like DraftKings & FanDuel, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not daily fantasy sports leagues should be considered gambling, which is frowned upon by most pro sports leagues. However, the N.F.L has apparently signed a marketing deal with DraftKings, which means you’ll probably start to see N.F.L players appearing in their ads.

If you’re unfamiliar, here’s how daily fantasy leagues work: you sign up for a free account on the site and then decide what sport you want to play. ‘Tis the season, so let’s say football. 

You then choose between a variety of contests that feature different prize values, participant numbers, and entry fees.

Once you pick your league, you’re given a ‘salary cap’ and may choose from a list of the week’s active players, each of whom cost a certain amount of money. You have to build your roster while staying within your salary cap and then you earn points based on how well the actual players perform.

The prizes are real money. DraftKings says it’s guaranteeing $1 billion in payouts this year. Your chances of winning big? Not great.You’re more likely to spend more on entry fees than you ever win, because those who do win the large sums have algorithms working for them.

So, why doesn’t this qualify as gambling? The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 categorized fantasy sports as a game of skill, not chance, and therefore it’s legal.

Should daily fantasy sports be considered gambling? Why or why not? Do you play in daily fantasy leagues? How have you fared? Do you think daily fantasy sports leagues are detrimental to professional sports?


Darren Heitner, founder of Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., a sports and entertainment law firm based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He’s also a Forbes contributor, his latest piece is titled “The Hyper Growth of Daily Fantasy Sports Is Going To Change Our Culture And Our Laws

Dustin Gouker, reporter covering daily fantasy sports for, a website covering the U.S.’s legal online sports wagering industry

Toni Gemayel, co-founder and CEO of FanJam, a mobile daily fantasy basketball game where users compete against friends in head-to-head matchups for cash