Are Fantasy Sports Websites, Gambling? You Betcha!

From an ethical perspective, it always best to see things for exactly what they are. Truth is elusive to our present day society. Truth is perhaps our greatest single fear. We have numerous apologists and defenders for unethical behaviors from huge corporations to lawyers to media personalities to authority figures such as coaches and athletic directors.

sports-betting-boardEthics is neutral. A single person or a corporation or even an association is either ethical or not. “No means no,” does not mean “No means – maybe.” A driver who is buzzed on two or three beers is still a drunk. A professional baseball player who, against all established rules, bets on baseball; his own team even, has broken policies that were well-established to the beginnings of baseball.

While I believe in second chances. I do not believe that black or white = gray.

At the outset, I will make it clear that I am not against gambling. If a person wants to take $200, make up a fantasy team (you pick the sport) and compete against 1,000 others with a similar intention, it is none of my business. It is their money and they are free to do with it whatever they will.

However, when others try to convince me that what is transpiring is not gambling at all, but a game of “skill,” I have no choice but to throw the ethics flag. It is a justification, making an apology, making a defense of the indefensible.

The Bellagio is beautiful

Have you been to or seen the Bellagio in Las Vegas? It is a beautiful hotel. The floral displays in the lobbies alone cost them more than what my house is worth. Why is the Bellagio so magnificent? Because the casino generates massive revenues. The Bellagio and every other casino, is not a monument to what people have won, rather to what they have lost. So be it. They gambled in biblical days and they gamble in the present day.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates that about $15 billion is spent on fantasy sports betting. This massive sports action generates more money than the NFL, not to mention MLB, NHL and NBA. The side bets are bigger than the actual leagues!

The two major players in online fantasy sports gambling are Fan Duel and Draft Kings, worth about $1.5 billion and $900 million respectively. They are backed by big-time corporate investors, allegedly Comcast and Disney (yes, that Disney). Now we have the fantasy gambling sites competing for – and buying the advertising rights to the teams, stadiums and even athletes.

Well, people were for sale in biblical times and people are for sale in the present day. Again, I am not a judge. I am only staring at all of it with eyes opened very wide.

Teams and even leagues are associating with gambling sites. Where it will stop is anyone’s guess, but I have a funny feeling in my stomach and it has nothing to do with the Habanero pizza we had for dinner last night. I am worried about “influence.” Go ahead and laugh. It’s OK. I know I am not the first person to raise this issue.

In the meantime…

In the innermost sanctums of most casinos is what is called the “sports book.” There, men and women, study all kinds of forms, tips, insider sheets and guides to scientifically pick brackets, horse races, tennis matches, golf tournaments, football games and the like. This is nothing new.

Yes, I get it. In a fantasy league you sort of make up the team. In a sports book, you go with “your team on the floor.”

In a sports book environment, virtually all of the gamblers understand it is gambling. To hear Fan Duel and Draft Kings commercials, one would think that it is all a giant party, where a $30 stake gets you $3,000 and, by golly, it could get you one million!

They do not talk about the losers. They do not talk about gambling addictions. They do not talk about people compulsively trying to cover their losses with bigger bets.

In fact (and under the guise of) the notion that because fantasy sports are “scientific” it is not gambling at all, but a sort of an exercise in advanced mathematics and probability. Give me a break, or more accurately, give me the truth. At least be ethical enough to do that.

Finally, if you know of someone losing too much on these sites, please get them help. Helping them is the most honest thing you can do for them.


For more information on Sports Ethics LLC:

Chuck Gallagher, President

(828) 244-1400



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