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Ron Shandler

Ron Shandler

Posted: December 18, 2009 03:07 PM

Fantasy Sports is Gambling? You Have No Idea.

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It seems that nobody sees the true irony in this story: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that four employees of Fidelity Investments were fired for playing fantasy football. Why? Because Fidelity has a policy against gambling in the workplace.

The fantasy sports industry has come out in full force to condemn Fidelity's actions. We are a multi-billion dollar industry, after all. We need to protect our state of existence and reinforce our credibility; these are things we have been fighting to establish for more than two decades.

But Congress is on our side. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was pushed through in 2006 and has specific carve-out language that serves two purposes. First, it establishes a legal definition for fantasy sports. Second, it states that fantasy sports are not gambling based on that definition.

The definition determines the legality of a fantasy sports game. In order for a game to pass the smell test, it has to establish fixed prize amounts in advance of the game, performance based on the knowledge and skill of the participant, and results based on the outcomes of multiple real-life games.

But here's the funny part of all this hoopla.

At its core, fantasy sports is gambling.

In its purest sense, gambling can be defined as participating in any activity that wagers on the outcome of an uncertain event. We can slice this definition to separate games of chance from games of skill, but the common thread still remains - we're betting that we can predict the future.

Legal definitions and Congressional carve-outs can't change that fact.

But if we are going to give fantasy sports a pass because it is a game of skill, then we have to give a pass to every activity that requires skill in order to wager on the future.

Like investing in the markets.

Buying commodities of any kind requires educated decisions intended to predict the uncertain outcomes of future events.

Fidelity spokesman Vin Loporchio stated,

"We have clear policies that relate to gambling. Participation in any form of gambling through the use of Fidelity time or equipment or any other company resource is prohibited. In addition to being illegal in a lot of places, it can also be disruptive. We want our employees to be focused on our customers and clients."

Customer and clients that are - let's be painfully honest here - gambling.

For years, I have likened our fantasy sports hobby to playing the market. We draw conclusions about the likely direction the future might take based on a comprehensive analysis of data and trends.

This is not roulette.

But for Fidelity, it is a bit of hypocrisy. Perhaps they should take a step back and look in the mirror.