Thanks to the relentless barrage of daily fantasy sports commercials this football season, everyone now has an opinion about the legality of DFS.
State Attorneys General are questioning its legality, Congress is investigating the entire industry, and the professional leagues who oppose sports betting are embracing DFS sponsorship dollars with open arms. Really, deep down, we are all just jealous that we did not figure out how to exploit the fantasy sports carve out in the UIGEA to the tune of billions of dollars like DraftKings and FanDuel.
The latest entity to weigh in on DFS is the NCAA. The beloved organization recently announced that college athletes who wager on DFS could lose one year eligibility because it equates playing DFS to betting on sports.
Of course, unless you live in Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, or Washington, DFS is perfectly legal because it is not actually considered gambling. So, although the NCAA likes to pretend that it exerts no control over its athletes and that its athletes are just the same as any other student, DFS usage is now one more aspect of a student-athlete’s life that the NCAA controls.
Much like bans on social media usage, preventing student-athletes from engaging in legal contests of “skill” treads into some murky legal waters particularly when public schools enforce the DFS ban. For a public school, also known as a state actor, to make such a policy, it must at least have a rational basis for doing so. I can understand, although I disagree with, rules preventing Colorado student-athletes from using marijuana or Nevada student-athletes from betting on sports — activities otherwise legal in those states. Yet the basis for preventing DFS engagement lacks a rational basis until the law classifies it as gambling.
However, while the NCAA and its members fall over themselves to ban DFS ads from their networks, what will happen when bowl games are held in stadiums with DFS lounges and suites?
The College Football Playoff semifinal this year is at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium which has a DraftKings lounge. The Foster Farms Bowl, whatever that is, kicks off at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, which has a Yahoo Fantasy sports lounge. Finally, the Jaguars’ EverBank Field hosts the Tax Slayer Bowl with part of the stadium devoted to “FanDuelVille.” Don’t even get me started on the hypocrisy of hosting a bowl game in Las Vegas and the Bahamas despite the NCAA’s anti-sports betting stance.
Will the NCAA force these facilities to close their fantasy sports lounges when its schools play there? Will the NCAA try to cover up the DraftKings and FanDuel logos in those stadiums?
If not, playing a bowl game yards from a DFS lounge will only further highlight the seemingly never-ending hypocrisy of the NCAA.
Steve Silver is the founder of TheLegalBlitz.com. He is a former sports reporter for the Las Vegas Sun and is now a lawyer in Philadelphia. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @thelegalblitz.
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