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Fantasy Sports Betting Attracts Younger New Yorkers

The legal age for casino gambling in New York is set to 21 years old, but young adults in the Empire State have found a loophole through fantasy sports betting contests. Many 18- to 20-year-olds have found a workaround for the legal gambling age via online apps and placing proposition bets, which are when one gambles on players’ performances in a match and not on the outcome.

Currently, some of the companies that offer and accept such wagers from the ages below 21 in the state are Underdog Fantasy and PrizePicks. They argue that fantasy picks on their websites constitute games of skill and are not considered traditional wagering. But only recently the New York State Gaming Commission introduced regulations to control these fantasy offerings.

However, Problem Gambling Spikes

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Wierzbicki, from the New York Council on Problem Gambling, shared that there has been an increase in young adults seeking help after getting in over their heads by betting on sportsbooks and fantasy games. He explains the only reason the demographic goes for these offerings is to make money and not to have fun. That is the issue for him.

Back in 2016, New York passed a law to legalize interactive fantasy sports and it stated that these games do not constitute gambling. It argued that fantasy sports users had control over the outcome of their bets due to their skill in building a roster. But since then, these wagers have evolved into almost exactly those that can be found on traditional online sports betting platforms.

On that topic, in October 2023, NYSGC voted in favour of new directions for paid fantasy sports that target pick ‘em contests similar to prop betting. The regulator’s statement read that contests in which a participant must choose, directly or indirectly, whether an individual athlete or a single team will exceed an identified statistical achievement, are banned.

However, PrizePicks, which offers those kinds of pick ‘em contests, argues they are not proposition-style betting, as per the use of the word ‘bet’ under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Endorsement Act. Jason Barclay, the chief legal officer and head of public policy for the company said contests with entry fees that are predicting the performances of athletes are not traditional gambling.

Problem Gambling is a Growing Concern

Kristen Sweeter, director of problem gambling resource centers for the New York Council on Problem Gambling, revealed the organization has seen more requests for help regarding problem behaviours due to sports betting from young players. She explained younger individuals are bigger risk-takers and that easy access to sports betting allows even greater risk-taking behaviour.

The Empire State’s mobile sports betting sector opened two years ago and it has handled over US$34.4 billion of wagers in that time. However, NYSGTC and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports shared that there was a 33% increase in self-exclusion requests from bettors in the first 12 months. There was also a 23% spike in calls to the state’s HOPEline.

Source: Burke, Molly “‘Fantasy’ sports apps fuel gambling among young adultsTimes Union, February 4, 2024