A post without a bad cop or prosecutor . . . pure fantasy?


I just realized that it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted anything here. It’s good to be busy, I suppose.

One activity that occupied a decent portion of my spare time for the past 14-ish weeks also happens to be one of the greatest inventions of our time. That’s right; I’m talking about fantasy football. I play in a few leagues, and for most of my teams, along with most of the fantasy football world, this week begins the playoffs.

For some of you out there, this means all that remains is the shame of the consolation bracket and the emptiness of the long months until next year’s draft. Stop crying. It makes you look ugly. And as losers have tended throughout history to remind themselves at the end of the season, there’s always next year.

For the rest of us, it’s time for the final push toward glory, bragging rights, and maybe a little cash as well. And although glory and bragging rights are the greater prizes, the cash involved raises an interesting and important question:

Is fantasy football illegal?

Over at The Legal Blitz (no relation), they recently posed a similar question: Is your fantasy league a federal crime? (h/t Adam Aft). Specifically, the article looks at whether fantasy football leagues are subject to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). It points out the test for exemption from UIGEA and issues some leagues/websites might have with that law. However, even exempt leagues still may be illegal under state or other federal laws, which the article does not address.

The article does point out that most states apply a predominance test of skill v. chance to determine what is illegal gambling. (It also has a great section about how the NFL stopped calling fantasy football gambling when they figured out they could make money off of it.)

I thought I would help fill in some state specific information for certain readers out there who might be, for academic or other reasons, interested in this question.

The short story is that in most states, commissioners of ordinary season-long leagues have nothing to worry about. Although there is no case law from any state regarding the legality of fantasy football, most state codes have exceptions for games of skill as well as for purely social gambling.

As I mentioned before, most states apply a predominance test to determine whether a game is one of skill or chance. In Virginia, Texas, and Jersey (places where I happen to know commissioners), a game that is predominantly one of skill would be excepted from the criminal gambling laws, as long as there is no person or house taking a cut as something other than a participant. At a glance, it seems that this is the situation throughout most of the country, and there are strong arguments (some based on my own consistent success) to be made for the proposition that fantasy sports are predominantly a game of skill. And regardless, as evidenced by the dearth of case law on the subject, prosecutors (generally a fairly zealous bunch) don’t seem to be going after fantasy sports at all.

If you would like a quick glance, or perhaps a longer more detailed look, at the various American gambling laws, visit  http://www.gambling-law-us.com/. Their convenient state law summary answers five basic questions about the gambling laws in each of the fifty states, and the site as a whole contains tons of information on the subject.

But now that we know that this is one of the few fun things for which we probably can’t be (justifiably) arrested, I’m going to call it good and get back to looking for late-season moves that might help me solidify my place in fantasy history.

Play on, players.


One response to “A post without a bad cop or prosecutor . . . pure fantasy?

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