by Jackie Thompson
New York’s Attorney General has banned fantasy football, and Ohio might be next. In the coming days, Ohio lawmakers will review the state’s laws on gambling to determine whether fantasy football is in opposition to them. Some may be shocked to discover that such a trivial issue is under review by state legislators, but fantasy football is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Fantasy sports is protected under federal law, specifically by the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). But what exactly is the legal difference between placing bets on fantasy sports players and placing bets on a real-life game? Sports and entertainment lawyer Jaia Thomas explained to the Huffington Post that fantasy sports are considered “games of skill,” while simply betting on the outcome of a game is considered “a game of chance.” People who play fantasy sports have a wealth of knowledge on particular players’ strengths and weaknesses–not to mention the vast amount of statistics they’ve committed to memory. It’s far more complex, supporters of the sport argue, than simply placing a bet on the favored team. “You have to figure out who to draft, play, trade, and all those things to have a successful season,” Las Vegas-based attorney Tony Cabot told Inc. magazine. “And because you’re doing all that, you’re betting on an outcome you can control.”
Some don’t see this distinction. Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New York, and Washington all have banned daily fantasy sports, or rather, the practice of placing bets on them. Sports fans in these states can still play fantasy sports; they simply can’t bet on them. As fantasy sports continue to grow in size and in membership, it’s likely that more states will review their gambling laws and make their own decisions about the practice. It’s possible that there might even be a federal ruling on the issue soon. Until then, get your fantasy fix while you still can.