As the NFL’s regular season kicks off with a full slate of games this weekend, I did something that reflects the state of American sports fandom.
I picked a daily fantasy football team.
According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, there are a lot of others like me. The trade group says that, as of August, 56.8 million people in the United States and Canada had played fantasy sports in 2015. That’s already more than twice the number of players there were in 2009 and a significant jump from the 41 million who played last year.
The average player spends US$465 a year on all sports, according to the FSTA, while football is the overwhelming favorite (73%). (I don’t spend that much, by the way; thus far, I’m just a little shy of $10 in my first season playing daily fantasy.)
So when I think about what’s new in pro football, it’s not that Commissioner Roger Goodell lost to Tom Brady in the Deflategate case. It’s not that my favorite team, the Buffalo Bills, changed coaches, picking up Rex Ryan from the rival New York Jets. Or that Ryan is gambling on unproven Tyrod Taylor at quarterback.
What stands out is the explosive growth in fantasy football – particularly daily fantasy.
In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIEGA) banned online poker, but left out fantasy sports, even though people routinely risk money when they play. Wagering money on fantasy sports, however, was deemed a game of skill – requiring knowledge of players’ likely performances – and not a game of chance.
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