By Rachael Eyler and Desiree D’Iorio
The future of fantasy sports betting in New York became uncertain almost two weeks ago after the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of anti-gambling proponents on Oct. 26, The court ruled that fantasy sports betting violates New York’s constitutional prohibition against gambling.
“New York’s Constitution says the legislature shall pass laws to prevent gambling, but what the legislature did [in 2016] was pass a law to enable gaming,” Cornelius Murray, attorney for the four plaintiffs who sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s gaming commission, said. “They tried to say it was a game of skill and not a game of chance, even though every outcome of every wager in fantasy sports is based on actual performance of real life athletes in real life games.”
Gambling addict advocacy groups say the ruling will help stop predatory gambling practices that specifically target young men on Long Island and across the state.
“These fantasy sports apps [like FanDuel and DraftKings] are trying to build a database of young males between 20-34 so that they can market them for full-scale sports betting,” Les Bernal, National Director of anti-gambling advocacy group Stop Predatory Gambling, said. “They’re in the business of creating new addicts, and the bullseye is men under 35.”
At a Gamblers Anonymous meeting in Woodbury on Nov. 6, attendees said they didn’t think the ruling would necessarily help gambling addicts because of the way addiction works.
“You need to recognize this as a disease,” Suzanne, who wouldn’t disclose her last name in accordance with Gamblers Anonymous meeting rules, said. “There’s always this monkey on your back.”
The American Psychiatric Association recognizes gambling disorder, also known as gambling addiction or compulsive gambling, as a disorder similar to alcoholism and other substance addictions.
“It’s all compulsive,” Rocky, another meeting attendee, said. For a gambling addict, it’s all about winning money however you can regardless of whether it’s legal, he said.
Murray still considers the ruling to be a win for the four plaintiffs, who he described as victims of predatory gambling practices.
“These are victims – relatives, spouses and sometimes themselves – with pathological gambling problems who had been directly and adversely affected by gambling,” Murray said.
FanDuel and DraftKings, the two biggest fantasy sports betting sites, have about 14 million users combined. A recent study found that 34 percent of them, almost five million, are exclusively sports betters.
The court’s decision raises questions about both sites’ future operations in New York.
“FanDuel and DraftKings are out there in a no man’s land where there’s no criminalization, but it’s still not legal,” Murray said.
Despite Justice Connolley’s ruling, the two major DFS apps will remain active pending appeal. If the ruling moves forward, New York will join ten other states where both FanDuel and DraftKings is outlawed.
“We’re still reviewing the decision and haven’t decided yet if we’re going to appeal,” Brad Maione, communications director at the gaming commission, says.
It is currently undecided if the court’s ruling will move forward but would be surprising if it did not Murray added.
“The judge struck down the 2016 law and now the ball is in the Legislature’s court,” Murray said. “If they appeal, they’ll get a stay. Right now, Fanduel and Draftkings are still operational, defying the court ruling.”
FanDuel and DraftKings did not respond to requests for comment.