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NFL paying attention to influence of high-stakes fantasy football leagues

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Risking money, whatever the amount, on the outcome of NFL games constitutes gambling.  Risking money, whatever the amount, on the outcome of the performance of specific players in NFL games does not constitute gambling.

Playing fantasy football for money isn’t gambling because Congress has decided that “an outcome that reflects the relative knowledge of the participants, or their skill at physical reaction or physical manipulation [but not chance], and, in the case of a fantasy or simulation sports game, has an outcome that is determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of sporting events” isn’t gambling.

Obviously, the same kind of skill needed to predict the winners of NFL games applies when projecting the performances of individual players.  In many ways, a fantasy football team resembles a convoluted parlay card, where the non-gambling gambler tries to compile a roster of players who will “win” more yards and points than the team put together by an opposing non-gambling gambler.

The hair-splitting and nonsensical distinction from Congress has made gambling on fantasy football as legal as gambling on stocks, which has spawned an industry that includes some very high-stakes fantasy leagues, some of which undoubtedly include NFL players.  But while it’s only a matter of time before word emerges of the involvement of NFL players in six-figure fantasy leagues, another potential complication could emerge when it comes to the non-gambling gambling of large amounts of money on fantasy football.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com explains that, during his training-camp tour, he has caught wind of “undue pressure some players and coaches feel from big-money fantasy-football players.”  Writes King, “I had one coach tell me there’s so much money in some of these fantasy-football playoff pools that people who used to gamble with bookies illegally are now gambling in high-stakes fantasy-football leagues, which is not illegal.” King adds that the “NFL has its antennae up over this, and it’ll be interesting to see if the pressure escalates to more serious threats on players or coaches.”

Interesting, and incredibly alarming.  Although physical threats against those responsible for poor player performances are possible, it seems more likely that those who would consider breaking the law to express displeasure in losing large amounts of money would be far more inclined to break the law in order to win large amounts of money.

In what would be a bizarre twist on point shaving, coaches and players could in theory be bribed to ensure that certain players will generate significant production, or that certain players will be shut down.  Getting to coaches and assistant coaches who control the offensive game plan would be the most efficient approach.  It also would help to grease defenders who would be inclined to slip on an invisible banana peel, springing a specific player for a touchdown or two.  Or four.

The league, which generates significant profit and attention both directly and indirectly from fantasy football, should be concerned about the potential for corruption.  Even if playing fantasy football for significant amounts of money isn’t illegal, at a certain point the money in the balance will open the door for all sorts of illegal activity.

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51 Responses to “NFL paying attention to influence of high-stakes fantasy football leagues”
  1. dsume001 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:11 PM

    Tough one here for the shield. The NFL can continue to go away from fantasy and become less WWE (which they are very close to as is) or distance themselves and lose a lot of casual fans. Bookies would be the big winners.

  2. niko0063 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:14 PM

    There is already fantasy corruption in the NFL!!!

    -Every fantasy owner after a heartbreaking loss

  3. 407magic says: Jul 28, 2014 3:15 PM

    Bookies use to run fantasy football leagues before the high tech, computer era and before it was called fantasy football. Maybe put a cap on it. Anything over $2500 per is considered gambling? Heck idk

  4. thestrategyexpert says: Jul 28, 2014 3:16 PM

    Or the NFL could create a new revenue stream out of new types of fantasy football. But then more people will call them hoggish and money’s not everything in corporate tiddlywinks?

  5. 3yardsndust says: Jul 28, 2014 3:17 PM

    I don’t read Peter King for a reason. Don’t bring him in here! The guy is an old lady who writes mostly about his hotels and fancy coffees. Blech.

  6. msc4realeagles says: Jul 28, 2014 3:19 PM

    Interesting. Most fantasy league buy-ins are less than $500, but there are always the high rollers out there. I don’t see CBS, Yahoo, ESPN leagues going away anytime soon. If they did, the No Fun League would triumph yet again, but face serious consequences losing so many casual fans. Women too. Insert Ray Rice joke ((here))

  7. macdaddyspeed says: Jul 28, 2014 3:19 PM

    congress…tis a silly place

  8. randomcommenter says: Jul 28, 2014 3:20 PM

    The big difference from the league standpoint is that it is much easier to fix a game where people are betting on the outcome than it is to fix bets on fantasy football.

    To rig a game, you may only need 1 guy if it’s the QB.

    Since fantasy football teams are made up of players from many different teams, you would need tons of individual players in on the fix to have an impact.

    I think the threat would be more on coaches playing fantasy football because they can hold players out or gameplan to diminish certain players. It would still be difficult because they would not be able to control most players on tehir own fantasy roster.

  9. chunkala says: Jul 28, 2014 3:20 PM

    Fantasy Football is so stupid.
    Example:
    A: Yes, WR scored for opposing team scores TD
    B: But with only 20 seconds left your team is going to lose.
    A: It’s okay, I just won my fantasy football matchup

    Rooting for opposing teams players, rival teams/players you should hate = sheer stupidity

  10. shieldsisland37 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:22 PM

    You almost have to respect Pete Rose for admitting to it. Im sure more guys have gambled on their sports then just him.

  11. sdelmonte says: Jul 28, 2014 3:23 PM

    Never thought about the possibility of fantasy leagues becoming that sort of problems. Heck, never thought of them as being gambling in the same sense as betting on the games. Still not quite convinced the two are the same thing, but I can see the chances of things going wrong now.

  12. lbijake says: Jul 28, 2014 3:24 PM

    Open up all betting and make it transparent. Vegas clues the league in when something does not look legit. They just want their 10%.

  13. nopepper123 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:24 PM

    The NFL should be embracing EVERY Fantasy Football aspect as it’s one of the MAJOR reasons the NFL is thriving today. Unlike the gambling market, Fantasy football reaches a far larger demographic segment of the U.S.

    It’s the reason stadiums need Wifi for games because Fantasy players want to be constantly updated. Organizations antennas need to be up for Fantasy Football, but only to capitalize on making more money through it.

  14. sterilizecromartie says: Jul 28, 2014 3:24 PM

    King is making up information again and quoting the “unnamed coach” as a cover.

  15. weepingjebus says: Jul 28, 2014 3:25 PM

    One fix is we just do away with all stats and scoring, and just try to make sure everyone has a fun time at the stadium. I know Jets fans will back me on this one.

  16. mvp43 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:25 PM

    Of course, now that the NFL has finally put the hammer down on domestice violence, they can finally resolve this imporant issue once and for all.

  17. percyscoredasmuchasdenver says: Jul 28, 2014 3:27 PM

    Everyone casts blame on Gooddell for not levying a stiffer suspension on Ray Rice, when in fact Roger has stated that he does not wish to keep administering penalties. Why doesn’t the NFLPA take more accountability of its membership and place a higher standard on moral character? That’s right. The NFLPA doesn’t care about bad acts.

    Fantasy football isn’t gambling? What a bunch of nonsense from the buffoons in Washington D.C.

  18. dowhatifeellike says: Jul 28, 2014 3:28 PM

    Doing fantasy football with real money at stake would take the fun out of it. I guess that’s why I’m not a gambler.

  19. rodh32340 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:31 PM

    The Stock Market is Far more riskier than Fantasy Football!

  20. kd75 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:32 PM

    So is a Super Bowl box pool gambling?

  21. 65impala says: Jul 28, 2014 3:35 PM

    Trust me congress will find a way to get their cut, sooner rather than later!

  22. tippyteo says: Jul 28, 2014 3:37 PM

    Then maybe the NFL should not promote its own Fantasy Football program where you can post in it’s system how much money the pool generates for a buy-in or if you charge per transaction. The system they adopted is promoting the very thing their ‘antenna’ is raised upon. Sounds like they want to corner this thing for themselves

  23. truninerfan49 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:41 PM

    The NFL needs to understand that I am only tuning into the meaningless week 14 Thurs night game between Jacksonville and Cleveland becuause of fantasy football.

  24. gerard33 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:41 PM

    Could this explain Kendrick Lewis’s play?

  25. trytobnimble says: Jul 28, 2014 3:45 PM

    Doing fantasy football without real money at stake would take all the fun out of it.

  26. jamaltimore says: Jul 28, 2014 3:45 PM

    Fantasy football sucks. It ultimately ruins how people watch football.

  27. tennesseeoilers says: Jul 28, 2014 3:46 PM

    Do the math, Titans fans. When Michael Griffin said today that, for several cancers on the team last year, there were other things more important than winning, THIS is what he was talking about.

  28. FinFan68 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:48 PM

    Fantasy football for money is absolutely gambling regardless of whether the league or congress chooses to view it that way. Players, coaches and owners should not be allowed to participate in fantasy football leagues that have cash payouts. It is no different than lottery employees not being allowed to play/win the lotto/powerball, etc. Many players seem to have very little integrity as it is. Any scandal involving a player, coach or owner involved in fantasy football would be hard for the league to recover from.

  29. champs794 says: Jul 28, 2014 3:51 PM

    Nobody needs WiFi at the stadium so they can watch their imaginary teams score imaginary points in days-long imaginary games in real time.

    Put the phone away. Raise your eye level a few inches (obvious crack goes here). The action’s on the field. Look to the side, enjoy your company.

  30. grogansheroes says: Jul 28, 2014 3:52 PM

    NFL is only concerned because they’re not getting a big enough cut.

  31. granadafan says: Jul 28, 2014 3:58 PM

    If Congress makes fantasy football illegal, then they also have to declare the NFL and MLB as monopolies. Bye bye blackouts for football.

  32. trollhammer20 says: Jul 28, 2014 4:15 PM

    Call me a throwback, a purist, or just an angry old fart if you must, but….I’ve never needed gambling or fantasy to “make the game interesting”.

    The game itself is interesting enough.

  33. beartastic45 says: Jul 28, 2014 4:18 PM

    Yet the NFL doesn’t give a lick about their players beating the tar out of women. Nice to see that Goodell prioritizes and cares about the important things …… All NFL cares about are women’s wallets however NFL players feel free to beat up assault as many women as you can after all it’s only a 2 game suspension.

  34. electricboogalo says: Jul 28, 2014 4:20 PM

    I thought Fantasy Football was for people who don’t have a real team to cheer for.

  35. 1uniquename says: Jul 28, 2014 4:29 PM

    I love Fantasy Football… that is all.

  36. cheatersalreadyhere says: Jul 28, 2014 4:30 PM

    You guys don’t think the top players aren’t cheating now ? I know for a fact the top Daily Sites feed data to the top players. Allowing them to target the “Fish”. In the TOS Fanduel says they don’t feed the data to your competition but they lie.

    Why do you think the same players always have the games on the boards? They take every game as soon as they post? They monopolize the lobby. They admit on public forums to not playing each other. In fact it’s very likely the top players are all financially tied to one another. The top players even admit to sharing rosters. Do you know what happens when you play against the same person with the same roster? The sites give you a refund! So where’s the risk in the top players playing against each other? It doesn’t matter which “Pro” you pick, you’re pretty much playing the same lineup.

    Like the article points out, the biggest scam artist from betting are in the industry. Especially those who claim to “Teach” or training. They outline the very basics of the game, and keep the “best” strategy’s to themselfs. Admitting it’s in their best interest to keep some parts of the strategy a “secret”. Guess which part they keep as secret? The part helps them win! The part where they target any players with low win totals. They even keep track if you’re an overall loser/winner.

    If you play fantasy for money, Be careful Especially of the places where there’s “Groups” of instructors..

  37. gohawks7 says: Jul 28, 2014 4:32 PM

    I have a friend who is a coach for an NFL team. If I am starting any players on his team he knows about it…and if the situation presents itself for him to help me out, he does. Usually it’s when the score is lopsided and my guy(s) may get some extra touches or looks. But it’s hardly not as impactful as being a relative of a starting qb. I’m sure Brady, Brees and Manning have helped out family members.

  38. robf2010 says: Jul 28, 2014 4:38 PM

    Another gem from the “Do As I Say” club. The NFL runs fantasy football leagues off of their own website. They have no idea who’s playing in those leagues or what the stakes are. The NFL may be keeping their eye on it but only because they want to get their grubby hands on more of the revenue it produces.

  39. eustus says: Jul 28, 2014 4:47 PM

    It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

  40. rickrenteria says: Jul 28, 2014 4:52 PM

    Lots of people don’t seem to know that there wouldn’t be a NFL as we know it without Congress and the tax breaks NFL owners are specifically (and some would say illegally) given. Same with MLB.

  41. pittsburghdamned says: Jul 28, 2014 5:14 PM

    Fantasy Footballers, please go away. This was created for passionless nerds who need things like sports pools to keep their attention.

    Take the Red Zone channel with you too.

  42. jayblack073 says: Jul 28, 2014 5:14 PM

    It’s not gambling, it’s a game. This would be like calling tennis players gamblers because they rely on their skills at playing a game to make money.

  43. kevin7777777 says: Jul 28, 2014 5:22 PM

    I’ve often wondered why the league allows it’s players to play fantasy football. Fantasy football is great for the league and they know it. The only potential problem is allowing NFL players to play it.

  44. hugeredskinsfan says: Jul 28, 2014 5:32 PM

    Everyone in this country gets off on telling people what to do all of the time. Why can’t people just live life and not worry if someone wants them to change? I’m getting sick of this…

  45. justintuckrule says: Jul 28, 2014 5:36 PM

    I have a wifi and lte jammer app that I activate when I go to games to block the dorks around me from checking their fantasy. Last thing I want to hear is a “fan” rooting for my team to win 50-49.

  46. fayemac says: Jul 28, 2014 6:51 PM

    I couldnt stand fantacy football until I played. I absolutely love it now…makes you watch the players you picked….you may hate the team but every team has a class act that you want to see do good. Personally cant stand the Packers but loved Lacy and the points I got for him. Its not good to stack you team on there (found out the hard way) but found little gems on losing teams that won the SB for me my first year. Whole point here is that somebody will always find a way to corrupt something good…just dont punish those who play by the rules. Is there anything out there that someone wont place a bet on or using a stolen credit card to do it? I think not.

  47. brownsmakemecrazy says: Jul 28, 2014 6:58 PM

    I’m sure it’s becoming a problem which is why the NFL has its antennae up. I found it curious when interviews with players talking about their fantasy teams. How the NFL allows this is beyond me? They haven’t been making too much sense lately.

    Sidebar to the gambling aspect: there is no doubt in my mind that the league controlling the replay challenges in the last 2 mins of 1st half and game has everything to do with gambling. In the Seahawks Packers replacement ref debacle, the money swing was tremendous and you guessed it, it swung in the favor of Vegas. Probably the NFLs way of saying thank you for alerting us to anything fishy.

    I don’t think all games are fixed according to the point spread or point totals but whenever there is money involved, nithing is as it appears. There are some calls that just make no sense and I’m sure it’s gambling related I.e. coin toss gate with Phil Luckett in the Pittsburgh Detroit game

  48. brownsmakemecrazy says: Jul 28, 2014 7:00 PM

    Always found it curious in certain interview of players talking about their fantasy teams. It’s getting to the point where the NFL needs to pay attention to it. How they allow their own players to play fantasy football is a mystery. Nothing the NFL is deciding on makes any sense lately.

  49. brownsmakemecrazy says: Jul 28, 2014 7:03 PM

    Heard from a reliable source former Packer and Brown Offensive Lineman Ross Verba was a huge gambler

  50. footballfan72 says: Jul 28, 2014 7:10 PM

    Just don’t mess with the NFL’s money stream, only in Vegas not in New Jersey. Domestic abuse is ok by Goodell regardless of where it happens.

  51. covertwosports44 says: Jul 28, 2014 7:30 PM

    Ridiculous. First of all, it is a joke that people cannot spend their money how they chose. Second, the NFL has no dawn business interfering with how people chose to spend their money.

    Corruption will exist whether high stakes fantasy games are legal or not, just like sports gambling exists in spite of the fact it has been deemed illegal everywhere in the U.S. except Vegas.

    NFL needs to mind its own affairs and weed out any wrong doers, whether it be players, coaches, etc. Trying to control matters outside of itself (i.e. what people are allowed to participate in) and doing so with the government’s help is fascist.

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