Is playing in fantasy football leagues like FanDuel and DraftKings gambling?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

If you've watched any measure of sports on television in the past year, you have very likely seen the advertisements for the fantasy football competitions FanDuel and DraftKings. Fantasy football has been steadily growing in popularity for the past 20 years or so. Betting money on fantasy football has been in existence nearly as long, but has been exponentially increasing in participants in the past few years. The question we are receiving is essentially this:

Is betting on fantasy football considered gambling, and if so, is it a sin?

For our official position on whether gambling is a sin, please read the following article on Is gambling a sin? What does the Bible say about gambling?

To summarize: Christians should be free of the love of money (Hebrews 13:5) and attempts to get rich quick (Proverbs 13:11), because the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Gambling is also addictive, and the Bible instructs us not to allow ourselves to be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). With those biblical concepts in mind, I would argue that gambling is usually a sin. Perhaps if the gambling is done purely for fun, with no love of money, with only a small amount of money being risked, and with absolutely no compulsion or addiction — it would not be a sin. But, again, it is highly questionable, at best, whether Christians should be involved in any form of gambling.

So, then, the question is whether fantasy football should be considered gambling. For those not familiar with fantasy sports, here is a summary. You compile a group of players based on how you expect those players to perform in their coming game(s). Depending on how well your players perform, they earn a certain number of points. You win or lose based on whether your players earned more points than your opponent's players. Then, usually, the winner of your fantasy sports league is determined by which team has the best Win/Loss record for the entire season.

FanDuel and DraftKings are different in that each week is an entirely separate competition. Each week you can pick an entirely different team. Depending on what type of league you sign up for, you have to spend a certain amount of money to be able to add certain players to your team.

The definition of gambling is important here. Some consider any kind of betting as gambling. Others only define something as gambling if you do not control the outcome, i.e., a game of chance. For example, while there is undeniably skill involved in playing poker, the game is ultimately determined by who receives the best cards, which, unless you are cheating, is entirely outside of your control. I would beat the best poker player in the world if I was dealt a straight-flush or four-of-a-kind every hand.

Similarly, with fantasy sports, there is some skill involved. You can do a lot of research on which players perform the best against which opponents. You can understand and recognize trends in performance. But, ultimately, you have absolutely no control over how your fantasy team performs. Your star quarterback could get hurt on the first play. Your opponent's no-name rookie could have a career day. The best fantasy football researcher in the world can be beaten by a complete novice who doesn't even know the shape of a football. Fantasy football, then, is a game a chance. If money is wagered on fantasy sports, it is gambling.

Just as casinos can afford lavish facilities because of how much money they make from slot machine and card game gamblers, so can fantasy sports leagues like FanDuel and DraftKings afford to spend obscene amounts of money on advertising. Despite what the commercials fail to inform you of, far more people are losing money playing fantasy sports than the individuals in the commercials who have won thousands or millions of dollars.

I do not think I can make a case explicitly from the Bible that gambling on fantasy sports is always wrong. But, based on the biblical principles above, I do not think fantasy sports gambling is something Christians should participate in.

There are far better things we should be investing our time and money into than gambling on fantasy football.
'I have the right to do anything,' you say — but not everything is beneficial. 'I have the right to do anything' — but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Image Credit: Joe Halbach; "Football"; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  | Current-Issues  | Sin-Evil

comments powered by Disqus
Published 9-21-15