Football, Gambling / Gaming, Sports

Is Fantasy Football For Money Illegal?

Labor Day weekend is behind us, so that means most of you have had your fantasy football drafts. I’ve run a completely different auction strategy this year, since last year in two ATL leagues I finished 6 – 7, and 4 -9 respectively, then had to buy trophies for the winners. Staci finished 3 – 10 though… so, I beat a girl, because I’m a big strong man who likes football.

In any event, sometimes ATL columunist Marc Edelman (8 – 5 last year, 1 – 1 against me), wrote an interesting piece on Forbes about whether or not playing fantasy football for money is illegal. Any illegality would be utterly unenforceable, of course. And most people play Fantasy Football for pride and trophies bought by under-performing editors with their own money. But still, it’s an interesting question if our overbearing police state claims authority over whether or not grown adults wager their private funds against their abilities to fake-own professional football players…

I start from the premise that all anti-gaming laws are stupid and wrong. They print the points spread in the freaking newspaper, but you’re only allowed to wager on it if you are in Vegas? Anti-gaming laws are simply proof of the lobbying power of organized crime.

For Fantasy Football however, Edelman reports that most leagues are in fact legal, even if there is an entry fee. From Forbes:

In many cases, playing fantasy football for money is entirely legal under federal law. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 includes an explicit carve-out for fantasy sports games that meet three criteria: (1) the value of the prizes is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of fees paid; (2) all winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants; and (3) the fantasy game’s result is not based on the final scores of any real-world games. Based on this language, most traditional versions of fantasy football seem to comply with federal law.

In one of the ATL leagues, the eventual winner won a playoff game by one point when Knowshon Moreno blew up for 118 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore. SKILLS!

While the overall regulatory structure allows for-money fantasy football, individual states my vary:

Nevertheless, some states’ regulations may be stricter than federal law. Under most state laws, fantasy football contests are illegal if they involve three elements: consideration (e.g., an entry fee), reward (e.g., a prize) and chance. Here, the precise definition of ‘chance’ varies by state. In a majority of states, play-for-cash contests are only illegal if they involve more chance than skill (“predominant purpose test”). By contrast, in a few other states, fantasy football contests are illegal if results are based even in the smallest part on chance (“any chance test”).

Edelman says that Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Iowa, and Tennessee could pose the greatest legal risk. If there is a Federalist here who wants to explain to me why we should live in a world where playing fantasy football for money in Louisiana is a bigger problem than doing it in Mississippi, please enlighten me.

For my part, I think it’s too much hassle to start a for-money league online with relatively random people. The only for-money leagues that make sense to me are the ones organized by a group of close friends, generally living in the same city, who will exchange the cash during some kind of group vacation or party.

Much as I’d appreciate the comic value of seeing state troopers in Tennessee disrupt some group’s winners party at Hooters, I don’t think that is likely to happen to anybody, regardless of your state’s definition of “chance.”

Is It Legal To Play Fantasy Football For Money? [Forbes]

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