The popularity of fantasy football is at an all-time high, and it seems to be still growing with each passing year. Every fantasy football team owner has already circled a date prior to Labor Day to gather with friends and foes for their money league’s annual fantasy draft.
But very few participants worry whether or not their fantasy football for money league is legal.
What is Fantasy Football?
Fantasy football was created in the 1960s as a harmless competition among friends, and it has evolved into a multi-billion dollar business. It seems every hardcore sports fan is either a sole owner or has part ownership in a fantasy football team.
Much like an actual NFL franchise, fantasy team owners build their roster through the draft, which takes place prior to the start of that year's actual NFL season. The draft order of each league will vary based upon their league rules and they will then begin selecting players from different NFL teams to fill out their rosters.
How to interpret the Anti-Gaming Laws
The anti-gaming laws in the United States are very hypocritical, as they allow newspapers to print point spreads of all professional and collegiate sporting events in their sports sections, but individuals can only legally bet games in the state of Nevada. Any charges of an illegal act committed by playing fantasy sports for money is unenforceable, as it falls under the umbrella of the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act of 2006.
The main purpose of this law is to ban individuals from gambling on casino games and online lotteries via the Internet. However, part of the act does include wording that pertains to partaking in fantasy sports for money leagues
The law states that playing fantasy sport games for money must meet three criteria’s for it to be legal:
- The value of the prize isn’t determined by the number of participants within the league or the dollar amount of the entrant’s fee.
- All winnings are reflected on a participant’s skill and knowledge level.
- The fantasy game results are never based on the final scores of actual games that are being played.
A Fantasy Players' Line of Defense
Unfortunately, some states have laws on the docket that consider fantasy football for money leagues as illegal because they involve an entry fee, reward prizes and the contest falls under the category of a game of chance. The consensus among lawyers is Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Iowa and Tennessee are the states that would prosecute organizers and participants of paid fantasy sports leagues.
The loophole for active fantasy sports players is each state’s interpretation of the law does vary. The debate is centered on if these fantasy football for money leagues are a game of chance or skill. If an arrest is made under the “chance” law, it usually stems from the belief that fantasy football for money league participants violated the law because the outcome of their fantasy games are based on weather conditions and injuries that actually took place in real contests.
However, lawyers will recommend to their clients in these states to form their fantasy football for money leagues through a reliable source on Internet, such as leading sports websites like CBS Sports, Yahoo Sports and ESPN. Rarely, do these fantasy sports league operators ever get challenged legally by states for hosting a prize money format.
Traditional Fantasy Football for Money is Legal
The case has been made that playing in traditional fantasy football for money leagues is legal, but you will go down a slippery slope if you choose to join these new fantasy football for money leagues that stray away from the generally accepted rules and format. Refrain from joining a league that allows fantasy owners to gain points off the final score of actual games being played.
Also, stay away from joining fantasy football for money leagues that offer smaller rosters to manage and a condensed fantasy season. Legal experts feel the outcome of fantasy contests in this type of league is heavily impacted by the final score of actual games. Lawmakers will not let these new fantasy football for money leagues be protected under the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act of 2006.
Playing Fantasy Football for Money
The debate will continue to rage on if it’s legal to play in fantasy football for money leagues, but most fantasy team owners only play for the trophy and the bragging rights over the friends and foes until the next season begins.
If you're playing fantasy football online through NFL.com, ESPN or Yahoo you have nothing to worry about. You can compete for your trophy and/or cash offline and you still should be in great shape.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Play fantasy football for money at your own risk.
The above photo is courtesy of AMC - Breaking Bad
For the record, I never actually played football. I have no doubt that I would get crushed running across the middle for a pass, every single time.
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