It's Opening Day! As baseball season begins anew, some fans who wouldn't normally give two hoots about fantasy games will start betting on fantasy baseball.
And strangely, the MLB seems to be OK with that (though the league's support is "purportedly limited" to free games on a particular site, as Forbes points out).
But before you put money on your fantasy picks, consider this: Is it legal to bet on fantasy baseball?
A Game of Chance or Skill?
Betting on fantasy sports has always occupied an ambiguous niche in the law. Is it as a game of skill, allowing players to use insights or instincts to win big? Or is it more like roulette -- a pure game of chance?
Federal laws (under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006) exempt fantasy sports betting from bans on online gambling assuming:
- They are not solely dependent on the outcomes of real-world games;
- The outcomes reflect the participants' knowledge and skill, and are predominantly determined by statistics; and
- The prizes aren't based on a "pool" of bets or the number of participants.
So federal law doesn't prevent players from betting on fantasy baseball as long as the outcome really shows skill or knowledge in gauging real-life players' statistical performances.
But as Forbes notes, Major League Baseball's CEO told The New York Times last year that fantasy sports betting was "akin to a flip of the coin, which is the definition of gambling." So is betting on fantasy baseball really only chance?
MLB Does a 180
Maybe fantasy baseball betting is a game of both skill and chance (like poker). In an MLB.com article published last week, the league advocated fans playing a daily fantasy baseball game, the Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com -- hosted by online fantasy betting outlet Draft Kings.
The article proclaimed it wasn't a "simple" game, and even suggested that reading "daily fantasy articles" on the topic (provided by MLB.com of course) would help players' odds. So maybe it's not just a "coin flip" after all...
Is It Legal in Your State?
Regardless of what the MLB thinks of fantasy baseball betting, your state's laws will determine if it is legal or not for you to participate.
Most states allow betting through sites like Draft Kings as long as the games involve more chance than skill. But others, like Arizona and Iowa, prohibit betting as long as any chance is involved.
If you're nervous about betting on your fantasy baseball picks this season, your best bet may be to consult an experienced gaming attorney in your state.
- Is Your Online Fantasy Baseball League Legal? (Forbes)
- Is Betting on Fantasy Football Legal? (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)
- New Fantasy Football Law Legalizes Fantasy League Prizes (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)
- Fantasy Football Players Can Yahoo! Over Lawsuit Settlement (FindLaw's Courtside)