“Fantasy is reality in the world today.” — George Clinton
On Friday the 13th, in front of the Equitable Building on Broadway, the chants of a protest bellowed.
The aggrieved weren’t protesting terrorism, immigration crises or even raging against the 99%. Their voices were in unison to get the ear of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who just a few days earlier had issued a cease-and-desist letter against FanDuel and DraftKings, two prominent daily fantasy sports companies, which the AG’s office considers in an official statement as “operating illegal betting websites under New York law.”
The protesters were very passionate about not wanting anyone to tell them how to spend their money.
Last Tuesday, the preliminary injunction was issued. On Saturday, Sports Illustrated broke the news that the companies’ investors will be the subject of a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. This injunction will include about 50 companies and individuals that have either invested in DFS companies or facilitated DFS gaming, which includes professional sports leagues. That pro sports can have “official fantasy leagues” brings into question whether any influence can be had in either direction.
What’s Legal In New York?
In short, the New York State lottery and betting on sanctioned horse racing (including OTB wagers) are legal, and practically all other sports events are off limits. Under New York law, which has prohibited bookmaking and other forms of sports gambling since 1894, a wager is considered gambling when it depends on either:
a “future contingent event not under [the bettor’s] control or influence;”
“contest of chance.”
Schneiderman considers DFS wagers to fit “squarely in both these definitions” of gambling, and is making it his business to block these national companies from further penetrating New York.
“Deceptive advertising” was also a term thrown around in the AG’s statements as well as the South Florida investigation. If you haven’t seen the commercials, staggering payouts are touted. In contrast, notice how casinos and resorts in the area advertise an experience and allude to winning, without any figures.
Back in high school and college, my friends had the Xeroxes of whose teams were up against whose, and I even remember some not attending class on draft day. I knew guys who were pretty much just like the cast of “The League.” At the time I thought it was too much of a hassle, but I can understand the allure a bit more — the leagues are like mutual funds rather than straight bets. You can pick different players and teams and hope they’ll beat the spread and get you some ROI.
All businesses seek to generate revenues — once you provide an average Joe the opportunity to make a wager, however, and it’s not by offering stock or shares, you’re bound to be tackled by the law in any state that considers gambling illegal.
There are sites that provide you with the tools — spreadsheets, stats, analysis — to make your own fantasy sports leagues. If they don’t take bets, then they start off within the limits of the law. If you can’t assemble a group of buddies or co-workers to join your league, don’t turn to the web for a betting fix. And certainly keep your company’s name out of any involvement.
Brinen & Associates will be keeping score of these two companies’ mounting legal battles.
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