KANSAS CITY, Mo. - ‘Tis the season for chestnuts, mistletoe, and scouring the waiver wire for a wide receiver replacement. If that’s how your holiday season unfolds each year, you’re one of about 24 million Americans who play fantasy football, which has swelled to an $800 million industry.
If your fantasy team was lucky enough to make your league’s playoffs, there’s an important question to consider as you’re formulating your starting lineup this week. Are you committing a crime?
It’s no secret that fantasy football, in the vast majority of cases, is a form of gambling. The typical fantasy league has between eight and twelve teams. The team rosters are made up of real NFL players and they get points when these NFL players score touchdowns and gain yardage. Leagues usually consist of a group of friends, or “owners,” who each pay an entry fee at the beginning of the season. That money goes into the pot, most of which will be claimed by the owner who wins the league championship.
So how is this any different from betting on actual NFL games, which is illegal in every state except Nevada? The answer to that question depends on where you live.
“Some states have addressed the legality of fantasy football and found it to be against the law,” says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV (http://thelaw.tv).
One such state is Florida, which has a statute on the books that makes wagering on the result of any game of skill illegal. Back in 1991, Florida’s attorney general added fantasy football to the list of illegal gambling endeavors.
Other states are more lenient. A 2007 New Jersey ruling held that choosing and managing a fantasy football team required skill, and is therefore not considered gambling.
The reality is, however, that even if your state frowns upon fantasy football, there’s very little chance of your league getting busted.
“State and federal authorities have more important things to be concerned about than a group of buddies wagering a few bucks for an entire season on their ability to pick a good fantasy team,” explains Kansas City, Kansas federal criminal defense lawyer David Langston of Langston Law, Chartered . “I’ve never heard of a single arrest related to fantasy football.”
So feel free to scour those waiver wires and cheer for your fantasy football team. You might just win a little extra money for holiday shopping.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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