Commentary

Is fantasy a gambling reality?

Recent studies debate that very question

Updated: April 22, 2010, 11:53 PM ET
By Chad Millman | ESPN The Magazine
Insider fantasy draftDaniela Corticchia for ESPN The MagazineThis draft could be the equivalent to a sports book in Vegas. Seriously.

This article appears in the May 3 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Recently, philly.com, the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, introduced a contest called Instant Fantasy Sports Games. Every day, readers can deposit $10, $25 or $100 and draft a fresh fantasy baseball, NBA or NHL team. Entrants pick an opponent -- a random fellow user or a buddy who has also signed up -- and if their team scores more points in the day's head-to-head matchup, they win some dough. The higher the entry fee, the more you win. Rosters reset every day.

Trade magazine Editor & Publisher's take on the venture is that the website "has become the first newspaper to offer online sports betting in the United States." I thought that was an interesting choice of words, because each year at this time, I debate seamhead friends about whether or not playing fantasy baseball for money is any different than betting on games. The pro gamblers I know spend their days reading about players, researching stats and creating home-brewed metrics. They strategize about backing -- or fading -- a team on a hot streak, and their bets are based on sound analysis, not an uncontrollable jones for action. In other words, they take the same approach and climb the same decision trees as fantasy players do. Yet sports bettors are degenerates, while fantasy guys are lovably obsessive fans.