Legality of Fantasy Sports Contests

Legality of Fantasy Sports Contests
Fantasy sports is a hobby with a vast following. Players build teams that compete against each other based on statistics of individual professional sports figures. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimated that in 2012 there were nearly 33 million players in the United States. While it pre-dates the internet, technology is what propelled it forward to what it is today. It also brought fantasy sports under scrutiny as there was concern for problems with illegal gambling.

Fantasy sports contests generally require participants to pay an entry fee which may become part of a prize pool. But it is the classification of fantasy sports as a game of skill that keeps it from being lumped together with questionable online gambling practices. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) Law of 2006 excluded fantasy sports from online betting rules; however, all games must still abide by state gambling laws.

According to the UIGEA, a fantasy sports league is legal if it abides by the following rules:
  • All prizes are made known to the participants before the start of the game.

  • Prize values aren't based on the number of players or amount of fees paid.

  • Wins aren't based on the score, point-spread or performance of a single real-world team or teams.

  • Wins aren't based on the performance of a single athlete in a single real-world sporting event.

  • Winning is based on the skill and knowledge of the participants.
Fantasy sports have gained immense popularity and legitimacy through the decades. It started out as something shunned by professional sports leagues and now is embraced by the industry. To make sure your league is legal, check the rules at each site you participate in, as well as your state's fantasy sports laws.

Sources consulted:

McKenna, Ben. Is Your Fantasy League a Federal Crime? The Legal Blitz, November 16, 2011,

Daily Joust. Legality of,

Fantasy Sports Trade Association Press Release June 12, 2012,

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