Legal Online Sports Betting

NYC Hits Fantasy Gambling with "Illegal" Label

There are a lot of things the average gambler shares in common. The average gambler is an action junkie, enjoying the thrill he or she gets from betting. The average gambler appreciates ease of access and the technological advancements made in online gambling. And the average gambler is a forged-in-fire cynic, always extremely cautious anytime some form of sports betting is considered "legal." We know that it's only a matter of time before the Puritans on Patrol take a swipe at it. Such was the case earlier in November when a lawmaker in New York chastised DraftKings and FantasyDuel, threatening to take serious action unless they stopped catering to New Yorkers.

Eric Schneiderman, New York's Attorney General, is not only anti-gambling but anti-wagering. If it's an activity whereby someone places money down in form of a bet, he wants to push the proverbial red button and turn the village into a parking lot. Recently, NY's AG sent scathing letters to the companies of FanDuel and DraftKings, saying that he considers fantasy sports to be gambling (because apparently he is law; he is hubris), and as long as these companies promote their services to New York residents, he is going to take legal action against them.

Fantasy betting sites dodged a bullet a couple of months ago when a DraftKings employee used early draft statistical reports in what appeared to be an "inside betting" play that won him hundreds of thousands of dollars on FanDuel, his site's competition. That drew the attention of many politicians. But this is actually more of a threat. This is an attorney general who is attempting to unilaterally decide that fantasy sports are illegal gambling. Can he do that? Yes and no, unfortunately. He can do it, and even ring the companies up on charges and extradite them to New York, if he really wanted. It would be a gross overreach, but not impossible. And while he would lose the case ultimately, he would get what he wants. He would put the companies through the wringer, make them waste time and money, and get his name in the headlines. Remember the name Eric Schneiderman. He'll probably be running for mayor or governor in a couple of cycles, trying to build his cache now.

So, were the fantasy sports giants threatened at all by his scathing letter? Is "LOL" a proper response here? In all seriousness, the sites are operating as business as usual. This isn't the first blowhard wannabe Julius Caesar to have a go at fantasy sports, proclaiming it "illegal gambling" because they believe holding a low-level office makes them our Dear Leader. 

In all likelihood, filing charges and extraditing the company heads as criminals is a very, very long shot that would take a level of cocksure brass and gall that would make Mao Zedong blush. What's more likely the course of action is that the AG will file a lawsuit of the civil variety (a tort) and ask a judge—well, beg a judge—to please, please stop those dirty heathen companies from allowing New Yorkers to gamble. He hasn't threatened that type of action yet, which actually gives the fantasy companies an open window. They could go to a judge first, and have the judge rule (redundantly) that fantasy gambling is legal in New York, thus undercutting the AG's attempts.

FanDuel is located in NY, so the AG has more sway than what you may think. And DraftKings is in Boston, so Red Sox nation might tell him where to stick it if he tries to interfere there. All that is clear at this point is that the AG wrote a letter and made some demands. He could just be spitting in the wind, though he could do some serious damage if he decides to make it his personal crusade, turning fantasy sports into the Al Capone to his Elliot Ness.

What confuses gamblers more than makes them angry is why something the government already considers legal should bother a random attorney general in New York. What business is it of his? We have three branches of government, local governments, a court system, and even gambling councils in different states. If all these bodies reach a conclusion that fantasy sports are legal, why would some random AG decide to chase his tail? Truthfully, one can never know. We suspect it's to gain political capital for his career, but he may just be a dyed-in-the-wool puritan looking to take a bite out of betting.

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