Fantasy Sports Push The Boundaries Of Legal Gambling More Americans than ever are signing up for fantasy sports leagues. NPR's Rachel Martin speaks with Mike Pesca, host of The Gist podcast, about fantasy leagues and gambling.
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Fantasy Sports Push The Boundaries Of Legal Gambling

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Fantasy Sports Push The Boundaries Of Legal Gambling

Fantasy Sports Push The Boundaries Of Legal Gambling

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's time now for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Today, we're diving into the world of fantasy football. More Americans than ever are signing up for these leagues where you are the coach, the general manager and you decide who will be on your team. In the past few weeks, gaming sites have launched huge ad campaigns to try to cash in on what has become very big business. Mike Pesca is the host of Slate's "The Gist" podcast. He's here to tell us more. Hey, Mike.

MIKE PESCA: Hi, and isn't it sad how they've defined fantasy down? What if I told you 30 years ago you'd be living out your fantasy. And I'd say yeah, but then they'd say, yeah it's drafting Davante Adams in the third round.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Somehow seems insufficient, yeah. All right, so...

PESCA: That's right.

MARTIN: ...Remind us how this whole thing works.

PESCA: Well, the big trend now is the daily fantasy league. DraftKings and FanDuel are the two most prominent ones. The people who track ads say that DraftKings took out more ads than any other company in America like McDonald's or GM...

MARTIN: Wow.

PESCA: ...I have to name all the companies. I have a podcast. They do a couple podcasts where advertisers support it. Guess who advertises sometimes on my show? These guys. You can't get away from it. So how they work is you pick different players. Depending on how the players do, you get points and then maybe you win your contest. You could make the weekend interesting for a wager of $5. You could wager $500 and lose the kids' savings if you are so inclined.

MARTIN: Wow, OK, so DraftKings, Fanduel, have been really aggressive with their advertising, obviously. But how is it legal to gamble on sports this way when you're not allowed to do the same thing in real life?

PESCA: Well, you're not allowed to bet on the outcome of a game. So Chargers against the Bengals, you can't bet on that. But if I wanted to bet on Philip Rivers, the quarterback of the Chargers, I mean, I would be betting on him. And the answer is the yearly fantasy leagues have existed for a while. They're sometimes not even played for money or that much money. But you want to say camel's nose under the tent, you want to say slippery slope, there was a loophole in the law. This loophole was exploited. The only state that bans it is Montana, but federally, it seems fine.

MARTIN: OK, so if this is getting so popular, though, is it likely to open any other doors? Is it likely to loosen the rules about betting on real-life football or other sports, for that matter?

PESCA: I think it will. And there are a few things going on. First of all, both of these companies, if you look at how much was invested, they're both worth a billion dollars, and they both have partnered with the big sports league, with Major League Baseball, with the NHL, with the NBA. And, in fact, baseball and the NBA, they each own a part of some of the leagues. That's part of their agreement. And the other big thing is that Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA, he has said that he wants an avenue towards gambling to be legal. So I think rather than these fantasy leagues becoming illegal, what's going to happen is that regular betting on the outcome of a game, a legal bet on the Super Bowl, will eventually be allowed to happen. But my one hope is that all the advertising - I know I've been the beneficiary to some extent - just simmers down a little bit. You can't change a channel without someone telling you to try out FanDuel. Give it a break. This is fantasy gone awry.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Mike Pesca's the host of "The Gist" on Slate. Thanks so much for talking with us.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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