Is Fantasy Football Considered Gambling?

At press, the 2023 NFL regular season is about to get underway. Rankings and projections are being released to the over 50 million Americans who participate in fantasy sports each year. Among this group, are thousands of individuals who have paused to ponder one very important question as it pertains to their mental health – is fantasy football gambling? Because if it is, fantasy players who are vulnerable to gambling disorder have something to worry about.

We recently answered a similar question regarding whether or not sports betting is considered gambling (it is) but the answer may be arguable when it comes to involvement in fantasy football leagues. To help answer your query we have highlighted key considerations below, from which you may determine whether or not fantasy football participation is a good idea for you.

3 Things to Consider When Determining Whether or Not Fantasy Football is Gambling and How Involvement May Impact Your Mental Health

What U.S. States Have to Say About It

U.S. states are in general agreement that for an activity to be defined as gambling, it must involve the three elements of i) chance, ii) prize, and iii) consideration. However, how each U.S. state interprets these qualifiers varies and depends upon how each writes its anti-gambling (or otherwise) statutes. For instance, in early 2016 a number of states stepped up to assert that daily fantasy sports (DFS) were forms of illegal gambling under state laws. New York’s attorney general went after FanDuel and DraftKings by initiating a civil suit (which resulted in a settlement) that alleged false advertising and unlawful gambling in the state.

Proponents of the opinion that fantasy football is gambling state that is is not a contest of skill within the meaning of respective state laws, given that outcomes are ultimately determined by the performance of players on the field.

Of course, the events of 2016 have made the discussion about whether or not fantasy football is gambling a moot point for most states now that more than 66% of them have legalized sports betting. In regulated states, the legal definition may now only be relevant with respect to taxation and consumer-protection-focused disclosures. More to the point of YOUR query, legal definitions regarding fantasy football are irrelevant. You want to know if fantasy football may compromise your behavioral and emotional well being. Please keep reading.

Fantasy Football or Daily Fantasy Football?

Traditional fantasy football is a season long program that may occur between one’s social circle or on a online platform that facilitates fantasy league play. In this case, the “payout” of an initial investment for individuals who come out on top occurs at the end of the season. If fantasy football is all that an individual is involved in (from a wagering perspective) there is less potential for habitual gambling.

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) on the other hand, or in this case daily fantasy football, is different. The roster and scoring structures are assembled on a weekly basis, with the financial reward occurring at the end of the week. Logically, there is greater potential for habitual gambling behavior because there is an opportunity for more immediate gratification and corresponding release of adrenaline and dopamine. Keep in mind that compulsive gamblers experience this same high, even when losing. Upon deeper inspection, DFS is beginning to look a lot like prop betting (bets are made on a specific element of a match not related to the final score) and parlay betting. This sentiment was shared on a recent LegalSportsReport podcast (minute 1:26):

“Over here on the side we have daily fantasy sports apps that, they’re probably legal. They’re probably operating legally under a network of federal and state laws. But they’re offering gambling. They’re parlays based on what people are doing, what players are scoring, or their rebounds, or the number of hits they’re having. The two things are basically identical, but you’re not parlay betting because they’re using a combination of the UIGEA, state DFS laws and state game-of-skill laws to say, “Hey, we’re legal.”

LSR Podcast on YouTube

Considering what we’ve stated above, involvement in season long fantasy football versus DFS may be less “risky” to vulnerable individuals. This leads us to the next key consideration.

Your Vulnerability to Problem Gambling Matters

Ultimately, your concern over whether or not fantasy football is considered gambling comes down to your vulnerability to problem gambling. Studies have found that higher fantasy game participation is associated with higher rates of problematic gambling.

If you have had a troubled relationship with gambling in the past, it’s best to steer clear of fantasy sports as it could trigger a relapse (so to speak). If unsure about where you stand, take this gambling disorder test:

Moreover, if you have any of these mental and behavioral health issues you should avoid fantasy sports because you are more vulnerable to developing gambling disorder.

Simply put, fantasy league involvement for a problem gambler is akin to someone with alcohol abuse disorder dining out each week at the local watering hole. There are simply too many triggers.

Concerned About Your Sports Betting Habit?

CALL +1 (877) 426-4258


Email [email protected]

Unregulated Sports Betting