PokerStars has been desperately trying to enter the US online gambling market since Amaya acquired the world’s largest Internet poker room for $4.9 billion last summer, and while its licensing in New Jersey is though to be imminent, the company is considering expanding into daily fantasy sports (DFS).
In an email to former players in the United States, PokerStars asked customers to complete a brief survey on their level of interest in DFS.
The questions relate to the customer’s activity and knowledge surrounding the concept and its legality, and whether they would consider betting real-money on fantasy sports in the future.
Coming on the heels of Yahoo launching its own DFS platform, DraftKings announcing the first-of-its-kind fantasy sports gaming lounge inside the Staples Center, and investors valuing FanDuel at more than $1 billion, Amaya is rightfully interested, but some believe the Montreal-based gaming conglomerate might be smart to look the other way.
Betting, Not Gambling
The primary concern regarding DFS is in regards to its legality. Sports betting is illegal in all but four states, Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware, but playing real-money fantasy sports is legal in 45 of 50.
Confused? It’s a sketchy grey area that could be considered unlawful should Congress decide the rapidly growing market needs expanded oversight or complete abolition.
FanDuel and DraftKings, the two market leaders in DFS, say they offer a game of skill that is not gambling.
The loophole is that players pay an entry fee to the operator for a chance at winning real-money prizes based upon their performance and the size of the player pool, a slight difference from standard sports betting.
Not everyone is sold:
“You put up something of value, cash, to win something of value, cash. It’s the very definition of gambling,” Joe Asher, William Hill CEO recently told the Review-Journal. MGM boss Jim Murren echoed those sentiments saying, “I don’t know how to run a football team, but I do know how to run a casino, and this is gambling.”
2015 Bad Actors
PokerStars’ lengthy delay in returning to America has been due to its “bad actor” label, deemed for those online poker networks that continued operating in the US even after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) was passed.
Following the Department of Justice’s crackdown on rogue iPoker networks in 2011, but subsequent ruling that effectively allowed iGambling by a state-by-state basis, regulators taking steps to legalize online casinos vowed to block bad actors.
But the mood on bad actors, primarily PokerStars and its sister network Full Tilt, has lessened over the last six months, with lawmakers in Pennsylvania and California introducing bills free of any clauses restricting certain sites.
DFS has all the ingredients to create yet another storm of legal debate over online gambling, and federal prosecutors seem to be taking notice. A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, has hinted at reviewing the legality of real-money fantasy sports wagering.
Should the tide in relation to DFS change and PokerStars be involved, that could be yet another black eye on a reputation that already has its fair share of blemishes.