Is Fantasy Football Gambling?

Jul 24, 2023

Key Points:

  • While fantasy football is not considered gambling under the law, it can be problematic for those with gambling addictions due to its addictive nature.

  • The distinction between fantasy sports and sports betting lies in the level of skill and luck involved, with fantasy sports requiring research and strategy. However, both involve predicting sports outcomes and the potential for wagering money.

  • Fantasy football gambling carries inherent risks, including addiction, obsession, and negative consequences on personal relationships and well-being. It shares similarities with traditional gambling and can lead to a cycle of risk-taking behavior.

Fantasy football has become a global phenomenon, captivating millions of sports enthusiasts who want to immerse themselves in professional football. The game allows participants to act as team owners, drafting real-life players onto their virtual teams and competing based on the players' actual performance on the field. At many companies, employees take part in fantasy sports as a team-building activity. 

While many consider it a harmless pastime, the question of whether fantasy football constitutes gambling remains a contentious and debatable topic. The industry has grown rapidly from $18.6 billion in 2019 to a projected $48.6 billion by 2027.

According to the law, fantasy football is not considered gambling, as it is a game of skill rather than luck. That being said, fantasy football can be problematic for somebody with a gambling problem.

What is Fantasy Football?

Fantasy sports involve participants creating imaginary teams of real players from professional sports leagues. These participants then compete against each other based on the statistical performance of their chosen players in actual games.

Background of Fantasy Sports

The expansion of the internet in the 1990s brought about significant changes in the world of fantasy sports, revolutionizing participation and transforming it into a widely popular phenomenon. With the rise of the internet, fantasy sports enthusiasts gained access to instant statistics and updates, allowing them to make informed decisions about their fantasy teams. Simultaneously, major sports and entertainment companies recognized the potential of this growing trend and launched internet-based fantasy games to cater to the increasingly tech-savvy fan base.

This surge in online participation prompted the formation of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), a trade organization dedicated to promoting the fantasy sports industry and safeguarding the interests of its participants. Over time, the FSTA evolved into the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association (FSGA), broadening its scope to encompass the expanding realm of fantasy sports as well as other forms of gaming.

The impact of the internet and the diligent efforts of organizations like the FSGA have propelled the fantasy sports industry to unprecedented heights. In 2003, there were approximately 15.2 million fantasy sports players in the United States and Canada alone. By 2017, this number had surged to an immense 59.3 million, highlighting the tremendous growth and popularity of this virtual sports phenomenon.


Fantasy sports have gained immense popularity in the United States and Canada, attracting a diverse range of participants. In 2022, an estimated 62.5 million American adults played fantasy sports, which accounted for approximately 18% of the adult population. 

When it comes to the specific sports preferred by fantasy players, American football remains the most popular choice. Approximately 70% of fantasy participants in the US are involved in fantasy football leagues. Baseball and basketball follow behind with 37% and 19% of participants respectively.

While gridiron football, baseball, and basketball dominate the fantasy sports landscape, other sports also garner notable interest. Ice hockey attracts approximately 11% of fantasy participants in America and Canada. Additionally, soccer is gaining traction, with roughly 9.1 million worldwide fantasy Premier League participants.

The appeal of fantasy sports cuts across various age groups and demographics, with both men and women actively participating. However, twice the number of men participate. With 67% being male and 37% being female. 

It has become a vibrant industry, offering enthusiasts the opportunity to manage their own team of real-life athletes and compete against fellow sports fans. As the fantasy sports industry continues to grow, its participant base is likely to expand further, making it a significant aspect of sports culture in North America.

Is Fantasy Sports Gambling?


The primary distinction between fantasy sports and sports betting lies in the level of skill and luck involved. The same debate is had whether poker is gambling or not. Fantasy sports require research, analysis, and strategy, as participants must select and manage their fantasy team based on player performance and statistics. The success of a fantasy sports player depends on their ability to make informed decisions and adapt to changing circumstances.

On the other hand, sports betting can be more reliant on luck. While knowledge of the sport and the teams involved can increase the chances of making accurate predictions, ultimately, the outcome of a specific game or event can often defy logical analysis and result from factors beyond anyone's control.


Despite these differences, fantasy sports and sports betting share some similarities. Both activities involve predicting sports outcomes and offer the potential for participants to wager money. Both also rely on a combination of skill and luck, although the balance between the two may vary.

Fantasy Sports and Gambling

In 2022, 81% of fantasy sports players bet on sports compared to 78% in 2018. As more and more people play fantasy sports, more and more people bet.

Fantasy football gambling, although considered a game of skill, carries inherent risks and an addictive nature that can have significant consequences. It's easy for individuals to become consumed by the game, obsessing over points and wagering money without realizing the impact on their mental health.

The thrill of competing against others and the possibility of winning cash prizes can quickly lead to obsession. The constant need to monitor player performances, make strategic moves, and keep up with the latest news can consume individuals' lives and thoughts. This level of obsession can be detrimental, leading to neglect of personal relationships, work responsibilities, and overall well-being.

Moreover, fantasy football gambling shares many similarities with traditional gambling, such as the adrenaline rush and the potential for addiction. The excitement of winning and the fear of losing can create a cycle of risk-taking behavior, oftentimes resulting in financial loss and emotional distress. Studies have shown a correlation between fantasy football gambling and gambling addiction, with individuals becoming trapped in a dangerous cycle of chasing the next win and disregarding the negative consequences.

It's important to recognize that fantasy football, while an enjoyable form of entertainment for many, has the potential to become a harmful habit. Individuals must set limits and seek support if they find themselves unable to control their participation in fantasy football gambling. Awareness of the addictive nature and potential risks associated with this form of gambling is essential for maintaining mental health and responsible engagement.


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