With Nevada on Thursday becoming the sixth U.S. state to effectively ban :daily fantasy" sports jackpot sites DraftKings and FanDuel as illegal gambling, a top Massachusetts anti-compulsive-gambling activist Friday called for more scrutiny of the sites.
"Fantasy sports are certainly a concern for us in term of the typical players that they have are certainly ones that are at high risk for a gambling disorder," Marlene Warner, executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, said in an interview Friday afternoon.
Warner does not want to take sides on whether Nevada was right or wrong to declare DraftKings and FanDuel are gambling businesses and thus must get a license from the Nevada Gaming Control Board or shut down. Both have long ardently resisted the idea they're gambling as opposed to a "game of skill" and so have reluctantly agreed to leave Nevada for now.
Warner said she can clearly see how fantasy gamers could play addictively and lose big – much like the Lottery and Keno gamblers and slots parlor and casino problem gamblers the council serves.
"They're doing something where there's not any regulation involved," Warner said of fantasy sports wagering. "There's not a lot of consumer protection involved."
DraftKings and FanDuel – whose financial backers include necn's parent company, Comcast, and sister network, NBC Sports - insist they're games of skill, not luck, with players' winnings depending on how well they can predict which roster of players from multiple baseball, football, basketball or hockey teams will perform best on a given day. They assert they are exempt from a 2006 federal Internet gambling ban.
But with the FBI reported to be investigating, along with New York’s state attorney general, and class action lawsuits from players who say they were defrauded spreading to multiple states, the Nevada ban has landed especially hard.
DraftKings said it "strongly disagree[d] with this decision and will work diligently to ensure Nevadans have the right to participate in what we strongly believe is legal entertainment that millions of Americans enjoy." FanDuel said it was "terribly disappointed that the Nevada Gaming Control Board has decided that only incumbent Nevada casinos may offer fantasy sports. This decision stymies innovation and ignores the fact that fantasy sports is a skill-based entertainment product loved and played by millions of sports fans."
Both companies said they were suspending operations in Nevada to comply with the order while they plot next steps. Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Washington already prohibit daily fantasy sports play, and Pennsylvania legislators are moving towards a possible ban as early as next week.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said that "as required by statute, it's continuing to monitor federal activity regarding all Internet gaming. The commission will coordinate as needed with the legislature, members of the executive branch, and constitutional officers to protect the interests of the commonwealth's citizens."
Warner said one question that needs to be answered is whether the Gaming Commission should have jurisdiction over fantasy sports, or the Lottery Commission, or the Attorney General, or some other entity.
"We would certainly expect that whoever's going to be the governing body for fantasy sports, daily fantasy sports, that they do take into consideration that there are negative impacts -- and they take care of those," Warner said. "There's always a downside to gambling. Gambling's not a risk-free activity."
With videographer Bob Ricci