• 46°

New fantasy game revives sports betting concerns

By Philip Marcelo

Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — A new daily fantasy sports game that lets users hone in on a single NFL playoff game has some gambling experts wondering if the contest inches the industry closer to the territory of sports betting that remains illegal in most of the United States.

The “Showdown” variant offered by leading fantasy sports company DraftKings allows users to pick six athletes from two teams playing against each other in a real-life football game, racking up fantasy points based on stats like touchdowns, receptions and yards passing, rushing or receiving. That means users playing “Showdown” this weekend can wager on performances in the Jaguars-Steelers game Sunday without having to wait for the Saints-Vikings game to play out several hours later.

The 2006 federal law that effectively banned online gambling but gave rise to daily fantasy sports requires daily fantasy contests to be based on the performances of athletes in “multiple real-world” sporting events — not just single games. That detail is leading some advocates to question how DraftKings and regulators operate.

“This new game continues the industry trend of trying to get as close as possible to single game betting,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, which is neutral on legalized gambling but pushes for strong regulations and consumer protections.

Whyte said the games “further blur the largely fictional line between daily fantasy sports and sports betting.”

DraftKings says the federal law — the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act — only applies if there’s an underlying violation of state gambling statutes first, and, so far, no state has objected to the competition.

State laws vary widely, but policymakers in 18 states responded to the industry’s popularity by legalizing and regulating daily fantasy sports. Many of those regulations were developed with heavy lobbying from DraftKings and other industry leaders. Daily fantasy companies largely avoid another 10 states where laws are worded in ways that make it more difficult to operate.

The Boston-based company has also offered contests for other one-off events like NASCAR races and golf tournaments since 2015, without any complaints from regulators, he added.

Daniel Etna, a New York sports lawyer who closely follows the sports gambling industry, said the game appears to comply with most if not all new state laws approved in recent years to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports.

In New York, the state Gaming Commission determined in December that the contest was legal because it’s based off how individual players perform in the game, and not the “score, point spread or team’s performance,” said commission spokesman Brad Maione.

One key is that “Showdown” requires users to pick at least one player from each team in a single game. So fans choosing from the Titans-Patriots game on Saturday can’t just stack their lineup with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and other New England stars without any Tennessee players.

Jeffrey Ifrah, a Washington-based attorney specializing in online gambling, isn’t convinced there’s much appetite to enforce the laws, even if there was a conflict. Many of the new fantasy sports laws don’t even require states to approve new contests.

“None of these states really thought about this,” he said.  “They were given these laws to pass and they did it. There wasn’t a lot of legislative debate.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is also weighing a bid by New Jersey to overturn the sports betting ban in effect in all but four states (Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon). A favorable ruling this year could make handwringing over daily fantasy sports moot.

“We would only look into a particular game if we received a complaint about it, which we have not in this case,” said Edward Grewach, general counsel for the Missouri Gaming Commission.

“We do not require review of every new game, so no, we have not looked into it,” said Elaine Lidholm, a spokeswoman for Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the industry.

The single-game format could have implications beyond the early rounds of the NFL playoffs, where eight teams play in each of the first two weeks and four teams play during the conference championships. DraftKing’s chief rival, New York-based FanDuel, says it has “exciting plans” for the Super Bowl, the most gambled on single game in the world.

If successful during the NFL playoffs, variants like “Showdown” could extend into the regular season next year and even potentially be offered for single games in other sports.

Comments

Coronavirus

Fluctuating COVID-19 death number back to 302 in Rowan County

Crime

Habitual felon sentenced to at least 8 years in prison

Kannapolis

City of Kannapolis to have bike rodeo Saturday

Crime

Two more charged for operating illegal gambling businesses

Education

A.L. Brown celebrates seniors with signing day

Business

Rebounding, but not recovered: Rowan County tourism begins challenging path toward normalcy

High School

High school baseball: Padgett leads Mustangs; 100th win for West coach Graham

Coronavirus

RSS superintendent, Board of Health discuss strategies for increasing student vaccination rates

Education

East Spencer charter school files petition to contest charter revocation

Nation/World

Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on

News

Lawyers: Black man didn’t drive into deputies who shot him

Nation/World

Liz Cheney says Trump and GOP backers threaten democracy

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department clarifies county’s COVID-19 death total is 301

Landis

Landis approves new land development ordinance, zoning map

Landis

Landis approves body camera, stun gun purchase for public safety officers

Crime

One charged, another dead on sheriff’s most wanted list

Crime

No injuries after car shot eight times on Old Concord Road

Education

RSS talks first steps for new federal relief totaling $66 million

China Grove

Gary’s Barbecue staff, customers look back at 50 years

News

Salisbury Lions Club names Person of the Year, Lion of the Year at 78th annual banquet

Education

Student COVID-19 numbers show first decline since plan A

High School

High school golf: Fowler competes in state tournament

News

Amazon announces new distribution center for North Carolina

News

House passes bill to bar Cooper from mandating COVID shot