Sports have always had a certain tie with gambling. Athletics of all types have always captured and held the interest of those who made money off of learning statistics and making educated guesses using algorithms as a basis for their knowledge. They have also captured the interest of fans, people who feel as though they know a lot about a sport or a team simply because they’ve been watching for a long time and are passionate about their alliance. When groups like these meet over a common subject, there is always going to be gambling of some sort. The fans trust their judgement and instinct and the professionals trust the math. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there has been a recent explosion in online fantasy-based sports gambling. the ads are showing up everywhere and they’re relentless in trying to convince you to sign up and spend your hard-earned money on fantasy sports gambling. This sudden, and very public, push for what is clearly a form of gambling is now drawing both questions and ire from governmental and nongovernmental organizations that have been traditionally opposed to gambling which is still, in most states, illegal. Now, as fantasy gambling is clearly becoming more popular and making a push for more customers, these groups and organizations are wrestling with how to approach this new form of sports entertainment.

One of the main issues is that there is a huge potential for profit, something that is making sports teams more than happy to sign up with these companies. Both FanDuel and DraftKings have signed lucrative deals with multiple NFL teams (DraftKings with 12 teams and FanDuel with 16) even though the league itself is opposed to any sort of gambling. The NFL is so against gambling that they’ve even distanced themselves from the more casual form of fantasy sports-based gambling that these new services offer. While these companies are making potential enemies out of the leagues themselves, they’ve already won over at least two of the wealthiest and most powerful team owners within the NFL — both Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert K. Craft of the New England Patriots have stakes in DraftKings.

So why are these companies drawing the ire of such powerful institutions? The main reason is how they have monetized what was once a casual affair. Fantasy sports gambling is legal in all states except for 5 because of just how casual an affair they are. Until the creation of these sorts of companies, most fantasy gambling was done amongst friends and in situations like the office pool. Both DraftKings and FanDuel have taken this casual format and turned it into a huge cash cow not only for their winners, but also for those who invest in their company. Fans need to pay an entry fee that can range anywhere from 25 cents to $1,000 and there are potential payouts every day that can reach up to $2 million. FanDuel itself says that it pays out about $75 million every week and $2 billion in a year.

With such large payouts, people are taking notice and calling out the NFL for what this really is, gambling. This past Monday, Representative Frank Pallone Jr., a Democrat of New Jersey, asked the government to investigate these companies to see if they had broken any laws when it comes to restricting and monitoring online gambling. This comes on the heel of a recent ruling last month that said that any casinos or horse tracks in New Jersey that allowed people to bet on sports events are breaking the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a law passed in 1992. Even though neither FanDuel nor DraftKings have made a profit yet, they are setting themselves up to be the leaders in sports gambling if it ever becomes fully legalized and integrated online. Until then, these companies will continue to need to toe the line and make sure that they have quality lawyers on retainer.

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