Copyright (c) 2006 North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology
North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology
RECENT DEVELOPMENT: Fantasy Football: Illegal Gambling or Legal Game of Skill?
8 N.C. J.L. & Tech. 59
M. Christine Holleman 1
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.
At 12:45 p.m. on the second Sunday in September, Joe finalizes his lineup for the first week of the fantasy football season. He checks a variety of websites that enable fantasy football players to be sure none of their starters are out of this week's game due to injury. He checks another website to decide if the rain in Pittsburgh means he should start Michael Vick instead of Ben Roethlisberger. As the 1:00 p.m. kickoff time nears, he clicks on the submit button, convinces himself that he picked the best possible lineup, and parks himself in front of the television, within arm's reach of a computer. Joe has ...
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