Is Daily Fantasy Sports A Game Of Chance?

Is Daily Fantasy Sports Gambling Header Image

This question has been the cause of massive controversy over in the States. Unless you’ve been living under a gigantic rock, you’ll be aware of the ongoing legal dispute between big timer daily fantasy sites, FanDuel and DraftKings, and the state of New York.

(If you really have no idea what we’re talking about, click here for a quick summary of what went down and it’s impact on DFS.)

Whilst this is great for raising awareness for DFS and all, not all is glimmer and shine when it comes to the other side of the coin. For one, the publicity isn’t exactly positive, and the DFS industry faces heavy criticism along with a possibility of a ban.

It’s time to examine whether these claims hold any weight – could DFS really be nothing more than a probability, and essentially just a gambler’s game?

What actually is gambling?

Dictionary Definition For Gambling In Daily Fantasy Sports

To get everyone on the same page, let’s firstly be clear about what it means to gamble. According to official dictionary definitions, to gamble is to risk something of value on a game where the results or outcome are a matter of chance, rather than skill.

So, when I flip a coin and I bet you fifty quid it’s going to land on heads, that’s gambling. There’s no strategy involved; there’s simply a 50:50 ratio, or chance that it could go either way.

Those who vote yes

Daily Fantasy Sports Is Gambling Image

The crowd of people who flock around the ‘yes’ stance – based on our definition – believe that Daily Fantasy is a game of total chance. Or more specifically, they think it’s more chance-based than skill-based. In a game of sports, random instances can befall upon a participant, like a player getting injured or the weather going awry. These things can neither be predicted nor controlled, and can cause users of the game to take big hits in their winnings.

Another major issue is the ‘daily’ part of fantasy gaming. Fantasy Sports is legal in the USA (where DFS is the most popular), but it’s the new daily version that is causing havoc. A daily game means quicker play, since it can be completed in just a day. There’s therefore way more money on the line, and similarities between DFS and regular sports betting arise – given the increased emphasis on winnings.

Those who vote no

Daily Fantasy Sports Is Not Gambling Image

Voters in the ‘that’s just preposterous’ boat argue that DFS is very much a game based on skill: statistics show that the ‘experts’ who know the most about the game are actually the top winners. In fact, there’s a growing problem that new players are turned off the game due to the more experienced players winning all the time. The game definitely requires knowledge and expertise in order to be successful. DFS also uses statistics based on sports players in real life; there’s nothing chance about a professional’s talent, and to say so would be insulting! Furthermore, the seemingly ‘random’ occurrences can, to an extent, be predicted; the weather forecast, for instance, is usually pretty accurate.

Why does it even matter?

The issue of legality is only a problem over in the States; in the UK gambling is not against the law, and so that’s not relevant here. However, it still matters because gambling addiction is a real thing. People think that games like Daily Fantasy encourage the problem, because it’s another cog in the wheel – a very fast, daily cog. The big payouts mean it has the potential to change lives, for better or worse. Furthermore, although the games are for the over 18’s only, young people can still access these sites to play for money. We’re all too familiar with how easy it is to catfish the system by sneakily altering the end of your birth year to ‘90’ instead of ‘98’. This puts youngsters at a risk they don’t quite understand.

Quick summary of both sides of the coin

DFS is gambling
  • It’s based on chance rather than any skill
  • Large sums of money are involved
  • Immediacy of winnings (it’s daily) leads to obsession
DFS is NOT gambling
  • Expert players profit the most; proof that it is based on skill
  • You can choose to play for free
  • Daily version is part of the appeal of the game – it matches our quick lifestyle today
  • You score against real life statistics of sports players; not chance events


The line between Daily Fantasy being gambling or not is a thin one. There’s no real answer; a lot of it is perched on semantics and the fear of addiction. The fact is, humans can be prone to addiction, and it is without a doubt, a problem. But this tendency can extend to almost anything; obesity is a monumental issue – that doesn’t mean we should stop the production of KFC (that would really suck). As with everything, Daily Fantasy Sports should be enjoyed healthily. It’s a skilful, fun game – anything more, and anything sinister is within the player’s control and choice.

If you need this question to be quenched a little more, check out CNBC’s take: So is daily fantasy gambling or not?

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