Recently, the folks who oversee legal sports betting in Nevada ruled that daily fantasy sports are a form of gambling that needs to be licensed in that state. Many people dismissed that ruling as protecting the casinos’ turf. Yesterday, the Attorney General of New York announced that he has determined that daily fantasy sports are a form of illegal gambling and he has ordered Draft Kings and FanDuel to stop taking bets in New York. Representatives of the daily fantasy sports industry say this is a publicity grab on the part of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The daily fantasy sports advocates deny that their activity is gambling because it relies on skill to assemble a successful fantasy team.
No one who has read more than a few of these rants could possibly conclude that I am opposed to gambling in general or more specifically to gambling on the outcomes of sporting events. My position there is consistent and transparent.
People are going to wager on sporting events; laws that seek to prohibit wagering on sporting events will not stop that activity. As examples please think about the effectiveness of Prohibition as a way to stop drinking or the myriad drug laws as a way to end drug usage and addiction.
Since wagering on sporting events is going to happen under any circumstances, the government should regulate it as a form of interstate commerce and tax it accordingly.
My problem with this issue is that some folks in the US Congress seemed to find it necessary to try to define what is and what is not gambling as it regards the Internet; and in so doing, they decided that wagering on daily fantasy sports and horse racing was “OK” but wagering of the outcomes of individual games or poker was “Not OK”. Rather than use whatever contorted logic led to those distinctions, let me offer a relatively simple definition of gambling:
Gambling involves two or more people putting something of value to them at risk pending the outcome of an event.
Using that definition, daily fantasy sports and horse racing are not distinguished from poker or wagering on individual games in any way. In all circumstances, people put up money at the outset and collect more money than they risked at the end if they are successful in “winning the bet”. Reduced to utter simplicity, if you wager $100 that the next person to enter the room we are in will be wearing a hat and I wager $100 that the next person will not be wearing a hat, we are gambling if in fact one of us walks away with $200 after someone enters the room.
In this ongoing and seemingly escalating brouhaha regarding daily fantasy sports, I am really on neither side of the argument because I do not think either side is right.
Daily fantasy sports are indeed gambling.
Enforcing laws that outlaw gambling is a feckless activity that wastes resources that could be used to better enforce laws that are far more important.
Recall, much of the current posturing here goes back to the Congress and its attempt to define what is and what is not gambling. Look at the revenues generated by daily fantasy sports – one company says it will pay out $2B this year so you may be sure they are taking in more than $2B – and recognize that the Congress will not undo the problem it created. The moneyed interests do not want things to change because that would be gambling on their part; they would only continue to be successful if the change went the way they prefer that it go and they will cease to be as successful if the change went “another way”. That is high stakes gambling…
Yesterday, I wrote about the change in the administration at the University of Missouri. The national attention commanded by the events there overshadowed another change of personnel at another institution of higher learning. The University of Illinois fired its Athletic Director, Mike Thomas, after an investigation into the treatment of the school’s football and women’s basketball players. Based on the report of that investigation, the chancellor said that this firing was necessary “in order to move forward”.
Before the football season began, Illinois fired its head coach based on player allegations of mistreatment. The investigative report said that the former coach interfered with doctors treating injured players and “building a culture that tended to blame players for being injured.” Here is a link to a report in the Chicago Tribune with more details on these sorts of happenings and in that report there is another link to the full text of the investigative report. Be forewarned, the investigative report with attachments/appendices is 1267 pages in length.
Several women on the basketball team have sued the school alleging maltreatment in that program too. The investigation found their claims of a racially abusive environment to be unfounded; given the lawsuit, a judge is likely to determine if the investigation came to the proper conclusion.
The investigation did not connect Mike Thomas to any of the abuses that it found – and obviously assessed him no blame for the racially abusive environment that it found did not exist. That makes the Thomas’ firing worth a look:
If the university is confident that the investigation was done professionally and thoroughly such that its findings are self-evidently true, why did Thomas have to be fired “in order to move forward”?
If Thomas is blameless, his resignation – with a settlement of course – should suffice here.
My guess is that the university has no such confidence in that investigation and that there may be a degree of polarity on campus with regard to this issue that would only be assuaged with some “punishment” being handed down. I also believe that the folks at Illinois are really glad to have the media focus so intensely focused on what is going on at Missouri just now…
Finally, here is an item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:
According to a report, the Minnesota Vikings lead the NFL in player arrests over the past five seasons. Minnesota is now known as “Land of 10,000 Player Busts.” I remember that time when three Vikings were arrested during a long booth review.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………