College athletes can’t play daily fantasy sports

AP Photo/Cliff Owen
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The latest hot-button topic in sports — the rise of daily fantasy sports and the prominence of the companies that provide them, DraftKings and FanDuel — has reached the collegiate ranks.

Division I athletic directors met in Dallas this week, and during those meeting, NCAA VP Oliver Luck told the crowd that the association believes that fantasy sports falls under the umbrella of gambling, and NCAA rules prohibit any athlete from gambling:

Here’s a statement given to ESPN.com by Mark Strothkamp, the NCAA’s director of enforcement:

“NCAA member schools have defined sports wagering as putting something at risk — such as an entry fee — with the opportunity to win something in return, which includes fantasy league games. Because of this, student-athletes, coaches, administrators and national office staff may not participate in a fantasy league game with a paid entry fee.”

Anyone with an ounce of common sense will tell you that playing fantasy sports with money on the line is a form of gambling, particularly daily fantasy sports. You’re betting that the roster you put together will be better than the roster of whoever your money is going up against. There’s certainly a skilled involved — everyone knows you don’t draft a quarterback in the first two rounds — but there’s also a skill involved in blackjack and poker.

And that’s certainly gambling.

From a legal perspective, however, fantasy sports are not considered gambling, as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 has specific language that excludes games that have “an outcome that is determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of sporting events”.

Here’s the other part of it: the NCAA and it’s member schools have no issue with cashing checks that are going to come from the daily fantasy companies. If you’ve watched any football this season, you’ve likely been inundated with ads for both FanDuel and DraftKings. DraftKings has reportedly spent $100 million on television ads this year alone. The money that they pay the cable networks to play their ads helps those cable networks pay for the television rights to broadcast college football and basketball games.

The explosion of daily fantasy sports has caught people off guard. The industry has changed dramatically in the last two years. Changes are, eventually, going to be coming, but it will be interesting to see just what those changes entail.