As the Attorney General of New York has filed an injunction against major DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) sites including FanDuel and Draft Kings, a debate is being waged on whether fantasy sports is a game of chance or skill. While I personally believe there is skill involved (not at all biased by my current second place standing in my own season-long NFL Fantasy Football league), I think it's the wrong question. The question should be, “Why isn’t all online gaming legal?”
We should push to make it so.
We live in a country where freedom is supposed to be a cornerstone principal. Where we are allowed to pursue life, liberty and happiness and where we are endowed with certain rights that are ensured and protected by our Constitution. The common-sense premise is that you have rights until they infringe on other people’s rights. The government should be involved in creating rules and laws to ensure that one person’s freedom does not take away from somebody else’s. And that’s it.
When it comes to DFS or online poker or even to games of pure chance, the reality is that there is no infringing about those that infringes on any third party. Your consequences are your own. If you win, you may find yourself better off. If you lose, you may find the loss worth the entertainment value. You may even become worse off, but that should be your decision to make and your risk to calculate.
In our country, we have the freedom to earn money and to spend it on all kinds of things that others may find inane and wasteful. We can buy overpriced handbags, gym shoes, homes and all kinds of impractical things. But if it’s our money, why should any government -- whether local, state or federal -- have a say in how we spend it or deem what we need protection from? In a country based on freedom, they shouldn’t.
I have heard the argument that gambling losses have negatively impacted lives for people who make bad decisions or become addicted to it. Well, guess what? So have many other things. Overspending on clothing, eating too much and drinking too much are just some of the many ways that people can overindulge and hurt themselves. But that needs to be their choice and their consequence to live with. Moreover, the minority of people who make those extreme poor choices shouldn’t restrict the rights of the majority to eat, drink, make silly purchases or even gamble as they please. Allowing government to use that excuse is actually allowing someone else to interfere with and infringe upon our individual freedoms.
As for calls for significant regulation, I think that an industry like DFS that has grown very quickly and become very valuable can find a way to self-regulate. They are young, so they are still finding their way, but they should do so for their own benefit. The participants in DFS contests and even online poker include very savvy number crunchers, who, if they feel that the platforms that they use are compromised or manipulated, will leave for another choice of platform. Of course, there needs to be some regulation that complies with the normal operating laws of every business, but again, common sense principles should apply.
It’s a simple fact that people like to have a stake in the things they support. Some people may take $75 and buy an NFL team sweatshirt before their favorite team’s game as a way to be a stakeholder. Someone else may want to take $75 and make a wager on the outcome of the same game to be a stakeholder. It’s not the government’s job or business in a free, secular country to decide which one of those personal expenditures is allowed.
The creators of DFS platforms are disruptive entrepreneurs, leveraging technology to create a new entertainment venue. Their disruption is not that different than Airbnb and Uber that challenge heavy legacy regulation in the hotel and taxi industries, respectively. Our gaming laws are outdated and inconsistent with the rapid change of living in a global, connected world. It’s time for us to take a stand and demand that our right to make and spend our money as we choose not be infringed upon by the people who are supposed to protect our rights to begin with.