Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Daily Fantasy Gams: Nits vs. Addicts

The image search for nits isn't pleasant
Story in the Gray Lady today about how daily fantasy sports sites are going to spoil the party for fantasy sports in general, by basically pointing out how this is, well, gambling.

Let's all take a moment, as a collective, to say "Duh." It will be cathartic, I think, and maybe even give some of us who are lapsed religious types a moment of congregation. Ready?


Now, here's the thing about fantasy sports that people don't, historically, get. It's for nits. I run three leagues which have a pretty substantial mid-level bite to them: $50 to the pot, $5 to the commish for materials and sweat equity. Payout in the 12-team league is 360-180-60, which means that winning the thing gets you a little better than 7 to 1, and payout happens as quickly as the game allows... which is, to say, that you get paid a little less than 7 months after you make your bet for baseball, six for basketball and five for football. The stakes have not changed in the many years that I've done this, and aren't likely to now. It's a mid-level game, and like all mid-level games, the payout is important enough to matter, while the buy-in isn't enough to really hurt. And games for nits, while still gambling, are as much of a gateway drug as near beer or exposure to second-hand pot smoke -- possible, but not real likely.

Now, a daily game, which is more along the lines of speculation on an individual level, for day trader types? That's a very different thing, really. Especially when you look at the stakes involved. It's not a game for nits who like to imagine themselves as the new Billy Beane; it's a game for hardcore gamblers who are sweating the vig and maybe putting the rent money on David Wright going big on a road game in Colorado.

I realize that we want to be digital in our thinking, to be on/off in the way we treat vice. But that's just not how the world works. I've played yearly fantasy games, off and on, for 25+ years now, and I've never heard of a single owner in any of those leagues develop a gambling problem. That's because all of those leagues were for nits, for people who didn't get the hardcore rush of big money gambling from their sports action.

That's why it's OK to treat them differently, in the form of taxation and/or regulation.

And that's where some of you open up on personal liberty and personal responsibility and creeping nannyism and hamana hamana hamana...

At which point I'd bring up the non-digital world point, and how creeping nannyism hasn't led to anything more intense than a seat belt law for car drivers and passengers, and nothing more than helmet laws for motorcyclists...

But, well, backing away slowly from *that* mudhole.

Conflating daily with year-long fantasy games gives cover to a form of gambling that, had it been invented first, would surely have gotten serious litigation. We don't need to get confused about it now. One's a game for nits, and the other is not. Moving on.

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