Skip Navigation

Fantasy Football: Illegal Gambling Or Legal Game Of Skill?

February 14, 2007
By M. Christine Holleman

This paper, published by North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology, University of North Carolina School of Law scholar M.

magnifying glass on top of documents

This paper, published by North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology, University of North Carolina School of Law scholar M. Christine Holleman examines how fantasy sports, a type of online game in which participants assemble imaginary or virtual teams of real players of a professional sports, fit into existing state and federal gambling laws.

Holleman writes that most state anti-gambling laws require testing whether success is mostly correlated with luck, or mostly skill.

“In most states, ‘[t]he test of the character of the game is not whether it contains an element of chance or an element of skill, but which is the dominating element that determines the result of the game,’” Holleman writes. “In general, the rule for determining whether an activity is gambling rests on the answers to two questions: “is the result of an activity separable from the element of chance, so that skill can be determinative, at least in some cases? Or is the result always sufficiently affected by the operation of chance that chance could always account for the result?”

Holleman says fantasy sports success is mostly based on skill, not luck, and should therefore be treated as games of skill, and not as a form of gambling.

Fantasy sports involve entry fees paid and prizes received, not wagers and winnings,” Holleman writes. “They involve elements of both skill and chance, but the skill elements are dominant. Through research, intelligence, and skill, the participants can control the outcome of the contests. Furthermore, even if chance is a significant factor in determining the outcomes, the policy reasons underlying gambling restrictions are absent in the context of fantasy sports.”