Gaming Execs Uniting On Calling DFS A Form Of Betting

Boyd Gaming CEO: Daily Fantasy Sports Is ‘Gambling At Its Core’

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The growing chorus of casinos that are on the record saying that daily fantasy sports is gambling got a new member this week: Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith.

CEO says DFS is gambling, should be regulated

Boyd was speaking Thursday during the Q2 earnings call for Boyd, which owns casino properties in Nevada and around the United States. Smith was responding to a question about “social fantasy sports” plans by a competitor. He didn’t mince words on his feelings about DFS:

On the fantasy sports side, it’s an interesting conversation and as you look at the landscape across the U.S. you have states that have made it clear that it is a legal activity within the state, you have states that have made it clear that it’s not legal and other states that just have an aggressive words I refer to as kind of grey states. When you listen to people talk about fantasy sports they use words like “betting” and “making bets.” So in our view it is gambling at its core and should be regulated just like other forms of gambling, today it is not. And so that’s kind of our view on that.

You can see a full transcript of his comments here.

Not the first time a gaming CEO said that

Gaming executives have increasingly looked to paint DFS as gambling. Whether that’s just honesty or an attempt to position themselves for the future in a possibly regulated DFS market is unknown, although it could certainly be both.

Here are other gaming CEO’s that have addressed the subject:

  • Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International: Those who consider DFS something other than gambling are “absolutely, utterly wrong.”
  • Joe Asher, CEO of sports book operator William Hill U.S.: “Any suggestion that (fantasy sports) is not gambling is the biggest bunch of baloney I’ve ever seen”

Regulation and legality of DFS

The DFS industry would like to stay on track for a self-regulatory model, but that could become a difficult stance to maintain as the industry has increasingly been cast as a form of  gambling or sports betting — albeit legal — in recent weeks and months.

Boyd’s CEO was simply jumping on the bandwagon in Nevada, where Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett recently told the Las Vegas Review Journal that DFS is “something we may have to look at in terms of it being legal under Nevada gaming law.”

A member of the California Gambling Control Commission, Richard Schuetz, said earlier this year that DFS should embrace some sort of regulation.

Not helping things this week for the DFS industry and the self-regulatory model? There are questions about the status of two DFS sites that appear not to be paying players that want access to withdraw account balances — FantasyUp and Ballr. (RotoGrinders’ forums have threads about those sites here and here.)

Perception > legalty on ‘gambling’ front?

Whether DFS is a skill game or gambling — in the current legal landscape or in terms of what it actually is is as important as its mainstream perception. As we continually point out, it could be nearly impossible to stem the tide of how DFS is viewed and referred to in the media and by the public. And the more DFS is referred to as gambling, the more politicians and attorneys in jurisdictions around the United States may treat it as such.

We catalogued references to Yahoo’s DFS product as gambling when it launched two weeks ago; media outlets making that connection included the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. A lawsuit brought by a fantasy convention against the NFL positioned FanDuel and DFS as a form of league-sanctioned betting.

For now, Smith’s reference was just another drop in the proverbial bucket. And not good news for an industry that wants to maintain the status quo.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.