NFL Fantasy Football thrives while Online Gambling is Illegal
Amidst the argument over online gambling legality in the United States, the National Football League has been one of the staunchest opponents to internet wagering. And many Americans find it hypocritical that the NFL opposes online gambling so much when the league itself greatly benefits from real money fantasy football betting.
If you’re unfamiliar with fantasy football, this involves choosing various players from the NFL in hopes that they have excellent on-field performances. Based on how each player does, the “team owner” scores a certain amount of points.
Up until the late 2000’s, this was just a fun hobby enjoyed by sports enthusiasts. But over the last few years, fantasy football has gained even more popularity with the advent of real money betting. And despite the fact that fantasy football is essentially the same type of online wagering as casino games or sports betting, the United States continues to allow it.
While the NFL doesn’t benefit directly from legal fantasy football, they gain lots of indirect benefits due to more fan interest. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), 33 million Americans currently engage in fantasy football while around 2 million new people come into this activity every year. As ESPN senior analyst Matthew Barry said, “It’s become synonymous with filling out a NCAA bracket. It’s gotten to the point where everyone has a fantasy team.”
Aside from the sheer number of people who are involved with fantasy football, the NFL also benefits from how much time people spend with their team. Paul Charchian, who heads the FSTA, spoke about this by saying, “Fantasy sports players will watch twice as much of their sports as other self-identified sports fans.” He added, “A fans of the (New York) Jets will just watch a Jets game but a fantasy player will watch the Jets game and then switch over to the other games.”
Based on what Charchian said, it’s obvious that the NFL doesn’t want fantasy football to go away any time soon. But how can it be legal to wager on fantasy sports, yet considered illegal for people to enjoy other cyber games of chance like baccarat, blackjack, roulette, slots and poker?