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Fantasy Sports Fallout

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For anyone watching virtually any major sporting event this fall, odds are the viewing has included repeated invitations to participate in a sports fantasy league. Promos seek to entice novices to take a stab at Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) for the chance of winning big bucks.

Surpassing even the ubiquity of beer commercials, the repeated DFS pitches lure kids to get hooked on gambling, according to a report released Monday by Stop Predatory Gambling, a reform group based in Washington, D.C.

"The profit model for online fantasy sports gambling operators is based on the fleecing of unskilled players, which explains why Americans have been blanketed with nonstop mass recruitment advertising campaigns in recent weeks," says Les Bernal, Stop Predatory Gambling (SPG) national director.

The report contends that the practices of FanDuel, DraftKings, and other similar commercial online sports gambling companies are deceptive and illegal.

SPG makes a distinction between season-long fantasy sports that many people participate in as a hobby and the DFS contests that restart constantly and typically are played against strangers. SPG says operators' claims that DFS are games of skill are bogus, because most DFS customers are "fish," lacking the tools to compete against an elite minority of professional "sharks." For DFS to survive and thrive, new fish must be sucked into the process, the report states.

Subsequently, Bernal says DFS operators are targeting teens that have grown up playing video games.

"It is well established that the younger children start gambling, the more likely it is they will become habitual gamblers and also problem gamblers," Bernal says. "By attracting young people to become habitual bettors, Internet gambling operators, including DraftKings and FanDuel, will take their national databases of these new gamblers and market other forms of Internet gambling to them in their bedrooms and on their smartphones."

Jerry Prosapio, co-founder of Gambling Exposed! in Crestwood, Illinois, concurs that fantasy sports can inculcate gambling habits in youth who aren't allowed into casinos until age 21. Prosapio says Gambling Exposed! is aware of parents of three boys who gambled on fantasy sports and ran up huge debts on their parents' credit cards. Two of the boys are too young to grasp the compulsive elements of fantasy sports according to Prosapio, who attends Crossroads Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Burbank, Illinois.

Gambling Exposed! is a Christian organization that alerts churches about the deceptive, predatory nature of gambling.

"Our call is to sound the alarm to those who are the most vulnerable --youth and elderly -- from falling prey to this destructive vice and offer hope to those with a gambling problem," Prosapio says.

Fantasy sports aren't covered in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. However, SPG says DFS are unlawful because they violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. PASPA contains a clause that prohibits the operation of a scheme that is tied to the individual performance of athletes, rather than on the final score of the game itself.

The proliferation of betting options, especially Internet gambling, has become a growing problem. Government sponsorship of gambling ventures is no longer seen as a panacea to raise revenues.

Legal federal action against online fantasy sports gambling operators is pending in California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York. Playing DFS is outlawed in Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, and Washington. In October, FanDuel and DraftKings ceased operating in Nevada after the state's Gaming Control Board determined   fantasy sports are akin to sports gambling, and thus require a casino license.

 

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