Fantasy Football: Illegal Gambling or Legal Game of Skill?

June 16, 2012

A lawsuit has been filed in the federal court system that threatens the continued success of online fantasy sports. The plaintiff in Humphrey v. Viacom, Inc. has sued the three main providers of online fantasy leagues, claiming that pay-to-play fantasy sports constitute illegal gambling. Since courts have traditionally distinguished between permissible and impermissible forms of gambling by looking to the requisite level of skill involved, this case will hinge on whether the court determines that skill or chance is the dominant factor in the outcome of fantasy games. The policy considerations weighing in favor of the fantasy sports leagues include: (1) traditional rationales for outlawing gambling do not apply to fantasy sports; (2) recent Congressional legislation evidences Congress’s support for fantasy sports; and (3) an adverse decision would damage an innocuous billion-dollar industry.