COLUMN: Fantasy sports websites’ controversy spurs conversation about sports gambling

Edmund Geschickter

Sign-up, compete, win! DraftKings is an online sports fantasy game company that has come under fire for allegations that its services resemble sports gambling. Sports gambling should be legal, as it is a lucrative service that brings renewed interest in sports.

Last month, New York state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman ordered a cease and desist on major fantasy sports websites DraftKings and FanDuel to stop accepting bets by New York residents. Schneiderman’s said that the two companies provide unlawful gambling services. These two companies have made major headlines over the past few years for their extreme growth and for the new sponsorships they have gotten. DraftKings and FanDuel advertisements are on ESPN and other major networks during almost every broadcast.

These two companies have permeated American sports culture and industry by exploiting a loophole in gambling legislation that allows “skill-based” games. But many people have called the paid games these two companies run into question, saying that the companies rip off consumers and run unfair contests.

“It is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country,” Eric T. Schneiderman said during his cease and desist order news conference. “Today we have sent a clear message: not in New York, and not on my watch.”

Online daily fantasy sports may very well be a game based on chance, and therefore gambling, but frankly, it simply does not matter. Gambling on professional sports should be legal for all United States citizens who are 18 years old or older.

It does not make any sense to keep professional sports betting illegal when an estimated $80 billion to $380 billion is wagered illegally per year in the United States, while only $4 billion is wagered legally per year in Las Vegas.

The prohibition on gambling only fosters black market bets that do not protect consumers and are not able to be taxed on by the federal and state governments. If we are so concerned with protecting the consumers that these two companies are intending to “fleece,” we should focus on the larger issue of sports gambling as a whole in our country.

DraftKings and FanDuel brought in about $40 million and $57 million last year, respectively. Compare that to the billion dollar figures that are being thrown around as annual illegal gambling estimates for pro sports, and it is clear that these two companies are being used as scapegoats and targets for people like Schneiderman.

Will we continue to restrict this massive industry and force it to conduct through offshore companies and neighborhood bookmakers with less than stellar consumer protection? Or will we decide to take advantage of this steady and still booming industry and attempt to figure out a way to leverage it to be useful in some way to our society?

America has proven that regardless of any laws in place, it will continue to throw money at professional sports, despite the “game of chance” versus “game of skill” distinction or really anything else. People enjoy betting on these games and players, and the leagues enjoy it because it spikes interest in these games and players, leading to larger profits for the leagues, teams and players.

DraftKings and FanDuel are not a problem within themselves, they are simply two companies which believed they were abiding by the rules and which are being targeted because of their amazing growth and immense popularity. The real issue, is what to do with all sports gambling, not just daily fantasy sports, which makes up only a small facet of the industry.