WTVM Special Report: Fantasy Fumble

WTVM Special Report: Fantasy Fumble

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Fantasy is now a reality, but is it legal?

Fantasy football has become more than a battle for bragging rights. Fans are plunking down money hoping to win big prizes and cash.

Is it a game of skill or gambling? Are you breaking the law?

Fanduel and Draftkings are blowing up the world of fantasy football. The two websites promise big winnings each day for its contests.

Just in the last week, Georgia's Attorney General says his office is investigating whether daily fantasy sports is gambling and violating state law.

Right after church, it's football time for Abdur Hassan in Columbus.

He's not just watching the Tennesse Titans versus the Carolina Panthers game this particular Sunday, he's also keeping track of his online bets.

"I call it wagering," Hassan said. "I don't like the word gambling."

For two years, Hassan's been wagering on football teams. As he says, winning some, losing more – but all for fun.

"It's a hobby and I think you have to be careful with that word because for some people it's a habit," Hassan said.

With hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars on the line for fantasy football and online betting games, we want to know if it's considered gambling and if it's legal here in Georgia.

We sat down with attorney Michael Reynolds in Columbus to find out.

"I believe season long seasons are probably going to be legal," Reynolds said. "The real question is going to be is the daily and weekly contests."

Basically what this means is daily and weekly betting constitutes more luck which can be viewed as gambling, whereas season long contests involve more skill which the law deems legal.

So the whole thing boils down to skill versus luck.

Reynolds talks about a 9-year-old federal law called the Unlawful Interstate Gambling Enforcement Act aimed at online poker, however he says there's an exception for fantasy football.

"In 2006 the big boys were the only ones that played in other words CBS and ESPN and it was for season long and the reason for that is there was some degree of skill involved," Reynolds said. "In other words you were given a salary cap, you drafted players and there was a prize and the end so there was some degree of skill at the end. So what the attorney general of New York has done from what my understanding is basically targeted daily and weekly contests where there would not be as much skill involved more or less what he calls gambling."

Sites like FanDuel and DraftKings are coming under fire in New York State and now possibly Georgia. Those online games let players pick teams of professional athletes and win cash based on their statistical performances in games.

The two companies that promote huge daily winnings argue their football contests require more skill than luck, and therefore aren't gambling.

The Big Apple's attorney general sees it differently and is trying to ban them and online betting of football games. The belief is that it's luck not skill.

In sports bars across the city, many fans like Hassan probably use a combination of luck and skill to bet on their favorite teams.

And until now it hasn't really been an issue.

"Anytime you take a chance on something it's a gamble."

The question now is will luck or skill win out and does the fantasy turn into a fumble?

For now, Fanduel is no longer taking bets in the state of New York.

An emergency hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday which could determine whether FanDuel and DraftKings will be forced to shut down for good in New York.

The outcome could have implications for Georgia.

And join the conversation on social media by using #FantasyFumble.

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