Companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel offer a wide range of daily fantasy sports games, flying under the regulatory radar by stating that they are games of skill and not of chance. Indeed, this has enabled them to operate in the United States where the official position is that gambling, especially online sports gambling should be prohibited with a few notable exceptions. However, mental health professionals who treat gambling addictions are of the opinion that daily fantasy sports are identical to gambling in that they result in addictions and compulsive behaviours.
According to Keith Whyte, head of the National Council on Problem Gambling, there is no difference between daily fantasy sports games and regular sports gambling and that this is becoming a very big problem. There is no doubt an element of skill is required to take part in a fantasy sports league that lasts a season, and the lengthy duration ensures that an addiction is very unlikely. However, people taking part in daily fantasy leagues place bets very often and they also tend to win money fairly frequently. It is no surprise that this leads to addiction fairly quickly.
Industry watchers have been quick to point out that the daily fantasy sports business does not get regulated since it operates in a legal grey area. Furthermore, the companies that offer daily fantasy sports are known to spend a great deal of money on advertising. In fact, the football season in the United States is accompanied by an advertising blitzkrieg launched by the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel, with a whopping $107 million being spent since September alone. It is hard to miss these advertisements and harder still to avoid their promises to enable players to make money quickly and easily. Addiction is a natural consequence to taking part in these activities.
What makes daily fantasy sports so popular with the younger generation is its promise of instant gratification. The industry is worth $2.5 billion at present, but its rapid growth means that it will be worth close to $15 billion by the year 2020. It is easy to see why mental health professionals are so concerned. Compulsive gambling is already a major problem in many parts of the world, and gamblers in the United States will soon be falling prey to the attractions of daily fantasy sports. According to experts, as of now at least 2 million American adults are considered to be pathological gamblers, with an additional four to six million people falling under the category of problem gamblers.
There are many reasons why people get addicted to gambling with a great deal of ease. For one, people feel that they are smart enough to beat the system and so they keep gambling money even if they make losses. Gambling is also extremely exciting, and people are willing to go to great lengths to get the same rush. Men are more likely to be addicted to gambling than women, with those in the 18-24 age group being at the greatest risk. Companies like DraftKings and FanDuel do not even acknowledge the extent of this problem and they do not provide any warnings on their websites, which further exacerbates the problem.