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Maryland’s Prohibition Excludes Fantasy Sports

12 April 2012 by Devon Chappell

Not long after leading a charge to shut down the largest online poker site in the world, Poker Stars, lawmakers in Maryland passed a bill that exempts fantasy sports from gambling prohibitions just as the 2012 major league baseball season gets underway.  Now players in Maryland can legally collect the prize money that comes along with winning a fantasy sports league.

The bill’s sponsor, Del. John Olszewski Jr., D-Baltimore County, was unsuccessful in two previous attempts to pass this legislation.  To ensure better results on his third attempt, Olszewski relied on help from the fantasy sports industry.  The critical challenge was to educate members of the legislature on how prevalent fantasy sports are in today’s society.

For anyone unfamiliar with fantasy sports, the game allows players to act as team owners by utilizing a draft to select actual athletes from a given sport in order to build a team.  After determining their team’s roster via the draft, players compete with one another in a fantasy league.  The competition is based on statistics generated each week by the actual athletes, and the objective is to end the season with the best collection of statistics of all the teams in the league.

Selecting players during the draft that will generate strong statistics over the course of a season is considered to be a skill.  It is on this basis that Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services ultimately determined that fantasy sports should not be deemed as gambling.

While it makes sense that the Department of Legislative Services came to this conclusion, it is difficult to understand how games like poker can be classified as gambling when the level of skill required to be dominant is considered by many to be higher than that required in fantasy sports.

One might argue that because participating in fantasy sports leagues is so widely thought of as harmless fun, it is easier for lawmakers to exempt fantasy sports from gambling prohibitions. What do you think?

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