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Featured Opinion

Unlike bingo, Fanduel requires skill

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

You can’t win at Fanduel.

That’s not a generic “you.” I mean, you – the person reading this. The person who has never played a daily fantasy sports game.

If you and I competed against each other in a game, I would beat you 100 times out of 100. And barring some freak of nature, it wouldn’t be close.

Yet, some in our Legislature would have you believe that these daily fantasy contests are on the same level as all other gambling — that everyone who plays has the same tiny opportunity to win, the same giant opportunity to lose. Don’t fall for that nonsense.

Daily fantasy sports are gambling only in the sense that the Stock Market is gambling. Which is to say, that if you know what you’re doing and follow the data, there’s not much of a gamble to it.

A bill in Alabama’s Legislature would legalize and regulate those contests in the State. It lacks only passage in the Senate and a signature from Gov. Kay Ivey to become law, but as usual, whenever we venture anywhere near the world of gambling, there are (intentional?) misperceptions of these games.

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So, let’s clear up a few of those.

First off, yes, smart people can and do lose money. Yes, the unexpected can occur. Yes, you can get lucky and win, or lose.

But daily fantasy sports contests, like the Stock Market, are won by people who do their homework, who know sports stats, who have access to in-depth data, who put forth the time and effort necessary to win.

Hell, that was one of the knocks against the games – that clueless fans were joining up to play and losing consistently to the experts. That’s why sites like Fanduel started posting the experience levels of those competing and providing an account of how many experienced players are participating in each contest.

Because the more experienced players – the ones who play dozens of times per day and invest large sums of money into the games – have advantages, just like the biggest Wall Street investors do.

They have computer programs that factor in all sorts of variables, including the individual players’ histories against each other, the weather, the stadium types, the time of year, the time of day, even whether some players have experienced recent injuries and how the rehab from those injuries has affected his statistics.

All of that info goes into the hopper and the computer spits out the best statistical lineup that will fit under each contest’s salary cap.

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It’s not a sure thing, just as an in-depth market analysis doesn’t guarantee profits on a stock market investment. But it’s pretty close.

When daily fantasy sports were legal in Alabama, I played, well, daily. Multiple games per day, usually sticking to the low-end games — $1 to $5 entry fees – because that’s where the least experienced players congregate.

I don’t use the fanciest, most expensive analytical data, but I do use a scaled back version. I won way more than I lost.

Is that gambling?

Yes, but with a little “g”. The same sort of thing as dog or horse race wagering, which are both legal in Alabama.

Gambling with a big “G” is putting random numbers on a card and hoping the right ping-pong balls jump out for you. Or putting cash into a machine, punching a button and hoping that the wheels line up just right. Or sitting in a smoke-filled room marking numbers on a card as ping-pong ball numbers are called out.

The only thing you can personally do to increase your odds on those games is rub a rabbit’s foot faster.

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Yet, we’ve legalized one of those big-G games: traditional bingo – the kind little old ladies play in smoke-filled rooms for cash prizes. (We also have a couple of counties that have legalized electronic bingo, but the Mississippi Indians (allegedly) bought the Governor before last and the Poarch Creek Indians have (allegedly) bought off the rest of the State’s lawmakers, so suddenly our Supreme Court justices can’t read law books).

We also have three pretty large Indian casinos that rake in $500 million per year in profits, so it’s obvious our aversion to gaming stops at the door of the State House.

All of that is gambling. None of it requires any skill past having the dexterity to put money into a machine.

So, let’s stop with the dumb ploys. Let people enjoy the entertainment they choose.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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