Just in time for Opening Sunday in the NFL, there’s now a new way for NY football fans to make a quick buck on the action.
The NY Post just announced that it’s partnering with FanDuel, a fantasy sports site that lets users win daily cash prizes. The kicker, as Editor & Publisher noted, is that FanDuel shrinks the season down to a single game so that fans don’t have to spend the whole year racking up fantasy points before cashing in.
The Post’s latest play, of course, won’t keep the beleaguered tabloid out of the red zone. But the paper’s willingness to finally see the multi-billion-dollar fantasy sports industry as a potential revenue source is at least a long-overdue step in the right direction.
In fact, Rupert Murdoch appears to be tearing a page out of Mort Zuckerman’s playbook. The Daily News mogul said in a Forbes interview last summer that “gambling” could actually be his paper’s panacea:
There is something that can be done, and the federal government ought to do it: allow sports betting on newspaper Web sites. That would save every newspaper in America. The New York Times.com could do it. Plenty of British papers do this; for them it’s a crucial part of their net revenue stream. I know a major newspaper in London that makes $15 million a year from sports betting alone.
While Zuckerman’s broad vision is laudable, his legal analysis may arguably be too narrow. In that same interview, he went on to say that “it would take congressional legislation and the willingness on the part of the government to confront gambling and casino interests” to bring betting to newspaper sites.
But actually, as Nigel Eccles’s FanDuel site demonstrates, there are a number of loopholes in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) that newspapers could exploit for revenue right now, even if they lacked the legal capacity to bring full-scale “gambling” to their sites without a change in the prevailing federal law. To that end, the Post’s latest fantasy sports partnership doesn’t go nearly far enough.
What makes FanDuel entirely legal under current US law, as the site goes to great pains to emphasise, is that Congress carved out a specific exemption for fantasy sports in the UIGEA by deeming such investing to be a “game of skill” rather than pure gambling.
As I’ve argued in a recent Note published in the Cardozo Public Law, Policy, and Ethics Journal (and available for free here), the same logic could arguably apply to investing in the outcomes of elections. After all, political junkies who predict the winners in Congressional elections rely just as much on skill, stats and other research as sports nuts who draft top-scoring players in fantasy football (just look at Nate Silver, the famed sports statistician-turned-political-prognosticator now forecasting the fate of Congress at the NY Times).
Eccles, the CEO of FanDuel, was also the founder of the now-defunct HubDub, a prediction market site that enabled users to bet play money on current events. Newspapers looking to capitalise on fantasy sports should also take a closer look at the HubDub model. After all, by incorporating political prediction markets, where amateur pundits could invest in everything from whether the Democrats will hold the House to whether Obama will win a second term, newspapers would draw on their core competency in current events and enhance reader engagement far more than they would by just becoming fantasy sports bookies.
By not objecting as newspapers establish real-money businesses based around politics in the same way they now do fantasy sports, the government would be acting in the public interest, and doing its part to help save an industry that everyone is already betting on to fail.
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