Am I going to jail?
Fantasy sports continue to gain popularity in this country as an increasing number of people participate in leagues and team "management." Plenty of individuals will argue that fantasy sports is simply an innocent diversion, despite the fact that many players will spend a great deal of time on research and in-season participation.
However, there is an aspect of financial commitment for some people as there are particularly leagues where people have entry fees and prizes of money. This causes some people to suggest that fantasy sports is actually gambling, which makes it a seemingly unregulated ring of betting. Therefore, here are a few thoughts on whether fantasy sports are considered "legal" in this country.
Technically not gambling
At this point in history, fantasy sports have not been officially categorized as gambling. The distinction between gambling and non-gambling activities usually comes down to chance versus skill. Whether fantasy sports is a "skills" contest has some debate, but the reality is that anytime money is involved, there is going to be some implication that it could be gambling.
Bets between friends are not necessarily monitored by the government, but today's Internet-driven fantasy sports have taken the games to an entirely different level. There has been legislation and lawsuits that have attempted to clarify the issue, but so far fantasy sports has not been put into the same category as "organized" gambling.
What is skill?
The issue that will probably continue to plague fantasy sports is the concept of skill versus chance. There is skill involved in fantasy sports as team managers must do research, pick players, and make adjustments during the season. The problem is that they are still "betting" on a particular player to perform, which makes people feel like the outcome can not be attained purely through skill. While a fantasy player may have a reasonable expectation of certain athletic outcomes, there is still a "chance" that the player will not do what was forecasted. This lend credence to the argument that fantasy is as much a chance activity as horse racing or other forms of gambling.
Scope and the future
For now, fantasy sports has remained something that people see as largely "innocent" as compared to casino operations and other areas of gambling. However, fantasy sports continues to grow and because there are large corporations and sports networks involved, there will always be issues if interstate commerce. If a court case or legislation determine that fantasy sports is just like betting on professional games, the landscape of the games may change drastically.
The office pool may transform into a government-regulated gambling pool, and people may think twice about participating in something that society has deemed to be less innocent than just a few friends having fun. However, until societal changes like this occur, fantasy sports will remain a recreational activity that are enjoyed by millions of people without a major commitment of finances or concern about breaking the law.