Skip to main content
Fantasy sports gambling isn't really gambling?
Email share

By John Kanelis

​For my money, the best narrator's voice belongs to a fellow named Will Lyman.

His voice can be heard on Frontline documentary specials that PBS broadcasts weekly on public television stations around the country.

Lyman lends his voice to an interesting topic this week. It's about fantasy gambling, although some of us might take care to avoid calling it "gambling." Why? Because a federal law enacted in 2006 that was supposed to restrict gambling on professional sports excluded fantasy sports leagues, which provide a forum for, um, gamblers.

​Frontline's latest special will be broadcast Tuesday, February 9th at 9 p.m. on Panhandle PBS. Its topic will be "The Fantasy Sports Gamble."

You know how it goes, right?

Some friends and acquaintances get together and select professional athletes to become members of "fantasy teams" that supposedly "compete" against each other. Participants put some money on the line. If their teams win, they get what's in the pot. If they lose, well, they don't.

Is that gambling? Sure it is.

It's also a growth industry.

Frontline has teamed up with The New York Times to examine fantasy sports gambling — and, yes, I'll call it gambling here.

The growth shows itself in online betting, as well as in the fantasy league betting that occurs. Let's consider it a sort of "underground economy." It's not illegal, but the exemption granted this activity from legislative efforts to restrict sports betting kind of gives it an air of mystery.

An interesting exchange in the special illustrates how those involved with online and fantasy gambling set themselves apart from casinos and other betting establishments that have to face certain rules and regulations. "You don't see this as gambling?" came the question. "No," was the answer.

And yet, this industry generates millions of dollars annually for those who "manage" fantasy sports gambling activites.

Do not regulate it, though, the way you would regulate the casinos in Las Vegas, Reno or Atlantic City.

I have to scratch my head at that one.

I'll leave it to Frontline's Will Lyman to tell the story of how those involved with this activity explain it away.