Last March, the chief executive of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Robert Bowman, told the New York Times that he viewed daily fantasy sports contests as “akin to a flip of the coin, which is the definition of gambling.”
That quote seemed to provide a dagger to the heart of some upstart daily fantasy sports contests. If the act of winning a daily fantasy sports contest were truly no different from a flip of the coin, daily fantasy sports would violate not only federal law, but also the law of all fifty states.
Nevertheless, just one year after Robert Bowman’s famous quote, Major League Baseball seems to have backtracked on its opposition to daily fantasy sports — now even endorsing one daily fantasy sports website.
In an article posted today on MLB.com, the chosen writer not only discusses daily fantasy sports, but further endorses DraftKings as the ”Official Mini Fantasy Game of MLB.com.”
Bud Selig begins his final year as Major League Baseball commissioner with a far more tolerant view toward daily fantasy sports. (Photo credit: bkabak)
Although this MLB.com article (or, perhaps better phrased, advertisement) purports to limit Major League Baseball’s endorsement of daily fantasy sports to just free games, in reality, any attempt to differentiate the two, based on the nature of daily fantasy websites, is largely dubious.
Today’s news coming from MLB.com is thus very positive not only for DraftKings, but also for the many other players in the daily fantasy sports marketplace, including the dominant market leader, FanDuel.
This news is also highly favorable to the daily fantasy sports website, Fantasy Aces, which currently uses San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval as the website’s primary endorser of its games. As recently as last summer it seemed as if Sandoval might have faced scrutiny from Major League Baseball for lending his name to a daily fantasy sports contest. Nevertheless, if Major League Baseball itself is endorsing a daily fantasy sports contest, MLB players should certainly be able to do the same.
Of course, the ultimate legal status of daily fantasy sports contests are not one for sports leagues such as Major League Baseball to decide. Even with the blessing of this most powerful professional sports league, daily fantasy sports contests still need to ensure their games comply withthe many complicated requirements under both federal and state law.
Thus, even with today’s news of Major League Baseball’s support for daily fantasy sports, the companies that operate in this marketplace still need to stay abreast of both federal and state laws, and they must continue to keep their games out of at least the eight to ten highest risk states.
Marc Edelman is an Associate Professor of Law at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business, where he has published more than 25 law review articles on sports law matters, including “A Short Treatise on Fantasy Sports and the Law.”
In addition, he is an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School, and a legal consultant on sports, antitrust, gaming and intellectual property matters. Nothing contained in this article should be construed as legal advice.
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