Fantasy Sports Special – Part 2: Filling the online gambling void

Fantasy Sports Special – Part 2: Filling the online gambling void

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

If there was a void left by the absence of legal sports betting in the US, fantasy gaming certainly seems to be filling it.

While some may travel to Las Vegas or bet illegally online, Draftkings player Jonathan Bales, who is the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People and has a New York Times column on fantasy gaming tactics, told TotallyGaming.com that he has seen little evidence of a major push for sports betting among his peers.

“Fantasy sports is different from sports betting in that fantasy sports players aren't competing against a house,” Bales told TotallyGaming.com.

“The sites have no interest in who wins or loses, compared to sports betting, in which it's a direct bettor-versus-sportsbook relationship.

“Daily fantasy sports users need to beat other people just like them, not a sophisticated sportsbook.

“I think most people in general are anti-gambling. However, I think it is an atrocity that sports betting is illegal – a true infringement of personal liberty – and it makes me sick.

“Having said that, it's not really something daily fantasy players talk about or worry about because fantasy sports and sports betting are two different worlds.”

Professional sportspeople certainly seem open to the idea of legal sports betting across the US, if the results of a poll published by ESPN last week are anything to go by.

As reported by TotallyGaming.com, the poll suggested that 63 per cent of athletes surveyed would back legalised sports wagering. Nevada is currently the only state in the US in which punters are open to bet on sporting events.

However, the leagues are clearly keen to recognise the way their fans are interacting with their favourite sports.

When signing their deal with fantasy sports operator FanDuel in November, Sal LaRocca, president of the NBA's global operations and merchandising, said: “It's clear that many of our fans are in the two-screen world, watching the game and having another device open to do something else. Daily Fantasy is now part of that experience.”

In the UK, where many of the top tier Premier League football clubs have betting company partners, those second screens identified by LaRocca might be a mobile with live in-play wagering.

Of the four major US sports leagues, it is the NBA that appears to be the most open to sports betting.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver – whose organisation is currently fighting New Jersey's sports betting proposals in the courts – conversely recently called on the state's governor Chris Christie to join him in pushing Congress for changes to betting legislation.

In November 2014, Silver wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that said: “Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorise betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”

So who knows, but maybe one day in the not-too-distant future, it will be a raft of betting companies and franchises hooking up. For now though, the fantasy sports companies are hitting the jackpot.

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