Evanson: Legalize fantasy sports in Iowa


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Gambling isn’t just for degenerates and couples on vacation in Vegas anymore. If you put in more than $50 in your fantasy football office league, you were technically gambling, thus breaking state law.

If you participate in a Baseball Challenge on ESPN.com, and by some stroke of luck you happen to win the $1 million grand prize, you would be unable to collect your earnings, because, again, it is not legal.

Some state lawmakers are seeking to change that.

Iowa is just one of six states in the United States that still outlaws fantasy sports.

Fantasy sports consists of games that involve constructing lineups for football, baseball, basketball, hockey, etc., to skillfully try to win money from an opponent whether it is online or offline, would be legalized if the two new bills introduced with bipartisan support in both Iowa chambers this week become law.

They do not necessarily amend Iowa’s current anti-gambling law; rather, they designate fantasy sports as a “game of skill” instead of a game of luck.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates that more than 350,000 people in Iowa play fantasy sports, which would be affected by the legislative decisions on these bills. Many fantasy players are subject to huge monetary fines if they are discovered to have participated in acquiring money in a fantasy game.

Iowans, just like the rest of Americans, are obsessed with sports. It’s a part of the culture, it’s how we can connect. Especially in a state such as Iowa, where there are no major professional sports stadiums or arenas, the fans still want to be a part of the game somehow — and more than ever, they want a stake in the outcome regardless if their favorite team is playing or not.

But, are fantasy sports a gateway drug to actual sports betting and online gambling? Could passing bills to encourage participation in staking dollars on the performance of players lead to the end of the civilized world as we know it?

The slippery-slope argument implodes there.

In an alternate universe, in which I actually had $1,000, it seems counterintuitive that I could drive a few miles west to Tama, Iowa, put it all on red on the roulette wheel, but I can’t do the same for fantasy sports, in which it takes some level of skill to play.

A fantasy sports gamer has to accurately assess the players in the sport, make value-based judgments, and project performance, just as a stock trader would do in the market on Wall Street. It clearly isn’t the same as flipping over cards or pulling the handle on a slot machine.

The state could benefit as well from legalizing fantasy sports. Daily fantasy sports websites such as Fanduel and DraftKings would find increased value in advertising in Iowa.

Iowa’s current status of being one of the odd ones out, with 46 other states ahead of the process in legalizing fantasy sports, is not exactly becoming, especially in a state that takes pride in its state motto, which starts off, “Our liberties we prize.”

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