Play fantasy football? Other people think you’re a gambler.

Amid a storm of outrage from anti-gambling groups in 2006, Congress snuffed out online poker and ignited the cultural phenomenon of fantasy football in a single act1. The distinction in the law was simple: online poker is a game of luck, so it is gambling. Fantasy football, on the other hand, was given a “carve out” provision in the law because it is a game of skill, making it totally legal2.

The recent rapid growth of weekly game sites like DraftKings and FanDuel, however, has blurred the legal line between gambling and fantasy sports. Despite the industry’s federal protection, there is now a growing movement across several states3 to label fantasy football as gambling — and, as a result, ban it altogether. Public beliefs are critical to deciding this kind of fight. So we asked the question: does the average American consider fantasy football gambling?

Yearly Fantasy Football Players Don’t See It as Gambling

To gain an understanding of how people view fantasy football, we administered an online survey to 606 people. We asked them how strongly they endorsed the statement: “I feel that fantasy football is a form of gambling.” We then asked participants whether they played in yearly or weekly fantasy football leagues, and whether they gambled

We found that, people who played only yearly fantasy football perceived fantasy football as gambling significantly less than all other groups. Yearly only players averaged a rating of 3.77 (out of 7) — they leaned slightly toward not considering fantasy football as gambling. On the other hand, all other groups averaged 4.60, meaning that they leaned considerably more toward viewing fantasy football as gambling. The difference was statistically significant, and the effect was consistent, even for those that payed to play fantasy football.

In our analysis, we also found that regardless of gambling activity or weekly play, having any exposure to the yearly single-draft version of fantasy made people significantly less likely to see the game as gambling. It’s feasible that this exposure comes in the form of an early fantasy experience where motivations to play are primarily socializing with friends or beating them in competition.

What’s clear is that fantasy football is quickly becoming a polarizing phenomenon, and that seeing it as gambling depends heavily on the type of league in which people play. Hopefully, based in part on this study, the type of league can be taken into account when rendering legal judgment about whether fantasy football is gambling or not. What we’ll explore in our next article is both the type of league and the depth of involvement in determining one’s opinion about fantasy football and gambling.




Leave a Reply