NCAA college games taken out of bill authorizing daily fantasy sports wagering

While fans have always been betting on sports, there’s been a major increase in gambling – especially fantasy gambling — since Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) exploded onto the scene under an advertising blitzkrieg leading up to the 2015 NFL season.

The ad onslaught successfully brought in millions of new customers for these Web sites, but it also opened them up to increased scrutiny from lawmakers. Under the microscope, popular DFS operators, like FanDuel and DraftKings, have been defined as illegal gambling providers and subsequently been outlawed by some states.

Conversely, the legislature in states recently passed a bill in favor of daily fantasy sports with one major caveat – Indiana Senate Bill 339 prohibits gambling in college sports games.

The fact that Hoosier State became the first to exclude college sports from daily fantasy legislation is not surprising. Indiana is the home of the NCAA which has long asserted that DFS is gambling and should be prohibited from using college sports.

In fact, the NCAA’s Power Conferences sent letters to both FanDuel and DraftKings urging them to discontinue college games back in August.

A spokesperson for the NCAA told the Indy Star that the Association’s stance on gambling has always been clear:

“We have made clear at every point in this national debate that daily fantasy sports competition should not be allowed to be conducted using college, high school and youth sports programs.  We were pleased to join the (national high school sports federation) in communicating that message in Indiana and other jurisdictions around the country considering legalizing the activity.”

Daily fantasy scares the NCAA because, like gambling, it could compromise the integrity of the games. It can’t afford to have its student-athletes fixing games to win at daily fantasy and thus undermining the public’s confidence in the legitimacy of collegiate sporting events.

Is it gambling to play daily fantasy sports?

This is the billion dollar question and DraftKings and FanDuel have spent a fortune on fancy attorneys to argue that daily fantasy sports are a game of skill. One such lawyer, David Boies, who gained notoriety for representing Vice President Al Gore in Bush v. Gore, told that he believes that DFS is clearly a game of skills because only “about 1% of players win a majority of the prizes.”

Wait, you can’t win playing daily fantasy sports?

Boies is telling the truth. According to the Sports Business Journal, 91-percent of profits were won by just 1.3-percent of players in a 2015 study.

In order to consistently win, the elite daily fantasy players or sharks not only use their own sophisticated algorithms to optimize their lineups. They also enter hundreds of lineups per day.

One such daily fantasy shark, Saahil Sud or “maxdalury,” who studied math and economics at Amherst College, routinely risks upwards of $140,000 every day in entry fees, according to Bloomberg. These staggering figures prove that daily fantasy is a game of skill, but also beg the question: why do people play if they can’t win?

States must protect daily fantasy players

Rather than debate the legality of daily fantasy and its effect on amateurism, it seems like lawmakers should focus on drafting legislation to better inform the consumer about the odds of winning. The now ubiquitous commercials for DraftKings and FanDuel are disingenuous and make it appear that anyone can win tons of cash playing daily fantasy.

The stance the NCAA and other legislative bodies take is that participating in daily fantasy about college sports is like a gateway drug. The thought seems to be that if gambling and daily fantasy college football or daily fantasy college basketball is allowed to run rampant, somehow players will fall into vice traps of corruption and bribery.

That seems like a pretty dark stance to take. After all, college student-athletes are just that: both students, and athletes, trying to get a college degree while they play the sport they love. The vast majority of student-athletes aren’t even going to be participating in sports that have daily fantasy leagues – and those football and basketball players who do are probably never going to be solicited to do something illicit.

The NCAA has taken a stance against daily fantasy in order to protect the integrity of its games, but it has fundamentally misunderstood the threat.

In addition to a dishonest message, these commercials commit fraud by promising to match deposits from players. When they say that they’ll match up to a $200 deposit, they actually mean that if you play $5,000 worth of games, they’ll unlock a $200 bonus.

Unfortunately there may be too much money at stake for the individual states to take action and educate daily fantasy customers. In concert with Indiana’s fantasy sports bill, they passed another one, House Bill 1168, which authorized the creation of the state’s own potentially lucrative fantasy sports games.

Unlike traditional sports wagering where the odd are generally 50-50 and anybody can win, daily fantasy sports are ruled by a few elite players with complicated spreadsheets and the maximum number of entries. This potent combination of knowledge and capital is inaccessible to most people, especially collegiate athletes, and these sharks simply do not need to fix games in order to win. The daily fantasy conversation must now evolve from is it gambling to why we are playing.

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