Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is fantasy sports gambling?

A loyal FTT reader (yes, we have them!) asked me this the other day. Let's hash it out

The case for yes:

> If it involves sports and money and the outcome of games, it's gambling. It might be peculiar betting, or very nerdy betting, or really small betting, given the amount of play that your wager gets over the course of a year. But it's gambling.

> The feel of a score is the exact same in both endeavors. When your guy hits a 3-run homer, your team covers the spread, or your trifecta comes in at the dog track, it's the same adrenalin rush and fist pump.

> Vice is vice, really -- and the amount of time that you spend working a fantasy league puts most forms of gambling to shame. A race track regular with his racing forms and multiple publications has nothing on a roto hound on draft day.

The case for no:

> Given the number of minute bets that are involved -- most leagues either play for little money, or comparatively little money, with one annual entry fee -- it just doesn't seem like any kind of gambling that could lead to any kind of deeper action. As gateway drugs go, this is a sugar pill.

> In most forms of gambling, there's a cold moment of taking money from a defeated opponent that's mitigated by the introduction of institutions. You take money from the casino, the bookie, or a state government. When you do it with In fantasy sports, you are getting paid by your friends and relations, mostly in a good-natured way. There's the implication (if not the reality) that you're just basically lending money back and forth over the years, and people rarely, if ever, get sore over the payoff. Compare this to real gambling, where chips are handed over grudgingly, whining is common, and going away mad is almost part of the payoff. When you lose in fantasy sports, it's expected and fairly painless. When you lose in conventional gambling, it takes much more of a chunk.

> Unlike most forms of gambling, the payday in fantasy sports isn't (completely) about the money. Many leagues do some form of trophy or keepsake, and the ownership of that piece is more important than the ownership of the money. After all, the cash is going to get spent.

For my money, fantasy sports *are* gambling... but this may be just because I commish three leagues, so I'm actually handling the greenbacks over the course of the year. In my baseball and football auction / keeper leagues, this means I'm handling hundreds of dollars in cash on Draft Day, and any time you are handling the cabbage, it's got the feel of Real Gambling.

But I can see how your mileage may vary, especially if you are convinced that your participation in a league wouldn't change at all if it swore off any pay-in / pay-out... or if your actual gambling hasn't changed in the years since you've joined a league. For me, the money is the spur that I need to do the grunt work; without it, the clear wankery of the exercise would become overwhelming, and I'd find some other timewaste. You know, like blogging...

1 comment:

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