Daily Fantasy Sites Are Most Definitely Gambling, but So What?

Daily fantasy is big business, but is it gambling?
Daily fantasy is big business, but is it gambling?

If you’re a sports fan, avoiding DraftKings or FanDuel is about as easy as walking down Ocean Drive without getting an overpriced menu shoved in your face. The two companies blitz airwaves with promises that your addiction to fantasy sports could make you heaps of cash.

Millions have signed up, but not without a big backlash against the so-called daily fantasy sites. The feds have launched a probe into whether the sites are gambling dens that need to be regulated, and earlier this month, a Miami attorney filed a class-action lawsuit accusing them of rigging the game so only insiders can win. (Neither site has responded to the lawsuit, but both say they are "skill-based gaming," which is legal in the vast majority of the U.S.)

I wanted in on the action anyway, so I signed up. And two things became crystal clear: These sites are most definitely offering gambling. And claims that “sharks” dominate the field don’t hold much water considering I snagged $800 by my third week.

Here’s how it went down for me. I dropped $10 into a FanDuel account and figured, What the hell? I know football. I know fantasy sports. How hard can it be?

The answer is very hard. I was risking only a dollar or two at a time, so really there was nothing to lose other than, well — OK there was literally real money to lose. And I was fully expecting to lose every cent of it.

The first week was a mess. I lost. By the second week, though, I won $75. I just might be OK at this thing. I’m going to quit my job soon! Then things got real. I placed tenth out of 225,000 people and won $800 in a tournament that cost one buck to enter. I was one Eric Decker fall-at-the-one-yard-line from winning the top $10,000 prize.

Daily Fantasy Sites Are Most Definitely Gambling, but So What?

How’d I do it? My theory: It’s because I actually tried to be bad. Experts call going against the popular picks being a “contrarian,” and that’s exactly what I did. I picked the Dolphins defense and Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, both of whom were living in the biggest house on Suck Street in Suckville. But they both hit big, so I hit big too.

According to the lawsuit filed in Miami, the sites allow expert players to use “elaborate computer programs and algorithms” to stack the deck in their favor. Is that possible? Sure, but the companies deny it vigorously.

And I’m no shark. I stopped betting on football a long time ago because inevitably the opposite of whatever I wagered on would happen.

The truth is I just got lucky. Daily fantasy sports are just a scratch-off ticket over which you have a tiny bit of control.

So yeah, this is gambling, but who cares? There are 35 casinos in Florida. Assisted-living facilities actually plan bus trips to casinos for their residents — knowing damn well their social security checks will go toward building the next tier of the local casino’s all-you-can-eat buffet.

If everything is on the up-and-up, there should be a way to keep daily fantasy legal in the United States. Unfortunately, jealousy, greed, and conspiracy theorists will probably get their way, and daily fantasy will soon go the way of online poker.

As for my turn as a daily fantasy mogul, that $800 payday funded my health insurance and bought me a sweet new office desk.

The next week? I promptly lost $20.


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