Is it time to make fantasy sports illegal?

The New York Times says the barrage of ads for fantasy sports sites offering multi-million dollar riches isn’t what Congress had in mind when it exempted fantasy sports from a law making online gambling illegal.

In an editorial today, the Times says fantasy sports was once a “season-long, low-stakes games friends played with each other.” Not anymore.

Because daily and weekly fantasy games are so new, there are very few studies on whether they are addictive and result in the social problems typically associated with gambling. One study published last year in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that college students who played fantasy sports were more likely to have gambling-related problems than other students.

What is worrisome is that some lawmakers, like Representative Frank Pallone Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, are using the growth of fantasy sports to push Congress to let states legalize conventional gambling in sports. Late last year, the commissioner of the N.B.A., Adam Silver, called for legalizing sports betting.

The allure of profits from gambling clouds otherwise rational minds. Giving people more ways to bet on the outcomes of sports is sure to threaten the integrity of sports and create more gambling addicts, especially among young people who are already more likely to engage in risky behaviors.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports today that 57 million people are now paying to bet on teams they create on online fantasy sports sites. Seventy-three percent of them are playing football fantasy teams.

And most of them are suckers.

Seventy-seven percent of the winnings go to 1.3 percent of players, according to one study of baseball fantasy games from the Sports Business Journal.

Graphic: Sports Business Journal

Related sports: Why Play Football? 2 Views On The Game, From Those Who Know It Best (NPR)