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Is the NFL's New Fantasy Football League Legal Where You Live?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on July 23, 2014 9:05 AM

With the launch of its new NFL Fantasy Ultimate Experience Leagues, the NFL is the first U.S. professional sports league to have its own pay-to-enter fantasy sports contests.

However, these new fantasy leagues aren't necessarily open to all U.S. football fans, according to Forbes. In fact, the NFL Fantasy Ultimate Experience Leagues' official rules prohibit fans in seven states from taking part because of possible conflicts with state law.

Which states are missing out, and why?

Prohibited in 7 States

The NFL Fantasy Ultimate Experience League's terms of service specify seven states where residents are prohibited from entering the league's fantasy contests:

  • Arizona,
  • Illinois,
  • Iowa,
  • Louisiana,
  • Montana,
  • North Dakota, and
  • Washington state.

The NFL seems to believe that their pay-to-play fantasy leagues may violate these states' individual gambling laws.

Laws regulating gambling vary widely from state to state, but here's how the majority of states break it down: Games in which the element of chance plays a dominant role are generally outlawed as illegal gambling, but games that require skill or are otherwise based on statistics, such as fantasy football, are more likely to be allowed.

What Is a 'Game of Chance?'

Federal law also generally prohibits wagering on games of chance. But under federal law, betting on fantasy sports is legal as long as:

  • The bets are not solely dependent on real-world games,
  • The outcomes reflect the participants' skill and are predominantly determined by statistics, and
  • The prizes aren't based on a "pool" of bets or on the number of players in the fantasy league.

Many states take a more strict approach to determine what a "game of chance" is or isn't. A handful of states prohibit playing games for money that feature any amount of chance.

Known as "any chance" states, these states generally prohibit playing fantasy sports for money, although as Forbes notes, one of the states typically included in the list of "any chance" states -- Tennessee -- is conspicuously absent from the list of states where the NFL's pay-to-play fantasy league can't be played.

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