Online Fantasy Sports Constitute Illegal Gambling in New York
In the state of New York, Article 225 of the Penal Code addresses crimes related to gambling. Gambling is defined to include risking something of value upon the outcome of a future contingent event that is not under your control with the understanding that something of value will be provided when a specific outcome is achieved. In particular, gambling usually occurs when someone bets on a game of chance.
Gambling is tightly restricted, and is authorized only under certain limited circumstances. Outside of authorized gambling establishments, running games of chance or wagering on games of chance can result in criminal penalties.
Just recently, the Attorney General of New York declared that online websites designed to promote betting on fantasy football outcomes are illegal online gambling under New York State laws. This decision has significant reverberations, as ESPN reports that New York has more participants in daily fan fantasy games than any other state in the United States.
The Attorney Genera’s decision on daily fantasy sports occurs after people have been using the sites for years, and is drawing criticism. Some argue it is a clear example of how politicians adopt harmful tough on crime positions solely for the purpose of securing political points, often at the expense of those who are accused of wrongdoing.
Online Fantasy Sports Sites Declared Illegal Gambling in New York
A game of chance by is defined by New York Penal Code Article 225(1) to include contests, games, gaming schemes, and gaming devices in which the outcome largely depends upon chance, luck, or fate. Even if some skill is involved in the outcome of the game, the element of chance is key to determining if a game of chance is occurring. When an activity is classified as a game of chance, wagering on the outcome of the game becomes unlawful.
The Attorney General has now indicated that fantasy sports games at sites like FanDuel and DraftKings should be classified as games of chance, thus making betting on these games illegal in the state of New York.
These online fantasy sports betting sites claim that games in which people build fantasy football teams are “games of skill,” rather than games of chance, and thus argue they are not subject to prohibitions against wagering. The sites point to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
However, the Attorney General of New York argues that the performance of professional athletes in football games is outside of the control of those engaging in fantasy sports betting. Since there is such a significant element of chance involved in the outcome of the game, the fact that some skill may also be involved in picking fantasy teams is not enough to make the games skill games. As a result, betting on the games is unlawful.
This prompted FanDuel to release a statement saying: “The game has been played — legally — in New York for years and years, but after the Attorney General realized he could now get himself some press coverage, he decided a game that has been around for a long, long time is suddenly now not legal. We have operated openly and lawfully in New York for several years. The only thing that changed today is the Attorney General’s mind.”
It is common for defendants to face criminal charges when politicians broadly or incorrectly interpret criminal laws for political gain. Defendants who are charged with unlawful gambling or with any other criminal offenses must understand their legal rights and must fight vigorously to defend themselves against charges. Call a New York criminal defense lawyer for information today on how an attorney can help with your case.