Fantasy football: Can you Gamble Online Legally in the US?

When it comes to fantasy football, there’s one question at the forefront of every player’s mind – “should we add a little action to the game?”.

We’re not talking about putting “Die Hard” on in the background, but rather the taking of bets and the act of gambling to add incentive to the winners of the game. A little bit of harmless fun, that’s what you’d think anyway, but before long you’ll realize that the legality isn’t all that simple. 

It’s not just for the fantasy games, but for all forms of gambling in the states. It can be a tricky place to live and what may be totally legal in one state may see you heading to the slammer in the back of a cruiser just a couple of miles over the state-line. 

Granted, it’s unlikely that you’ll be getting changed into an orange jumpsuit for having a flutter in a fantasy football league – but the point still stands. So, that begs the question, can you gamble online legally in the US? 

A look into the law

In order for a game deemed to be a fantasy sport according to US law, there is a small set of criteria that must be satisfied: 

  1. The value of all prizes cannot be determined by the fees paid or the number of participants playing the game
  2. The outcome of the game must reflect the relative skill and knowledge of all participants and chance must not come into play
  3. The fantasy game result cannot be based on  any real-world game final results 

On the flip side, federal law is not always kind to fantasy fans and, in cases where state law or regulation is stricter, the state law will take precedence over the former. As a result, under current laws for the majority of states, fantasy sports are illegal when all of the following elements are incorporated: 

  1. Consideration – an entry fee or similar 
  2. A reward – prizes for placing etc.
  3. The element of chance 

Therefore, depending on each state’s rules and regulations, fantasy sports leagues in all of their forms are either legally permitted to exchange money or are banned entirely. For example, popular fantasy league sites in FanDuel and DraftKings have recently seen legal trouble with some states banning their usage. 

The sites are now required to include disclosures stating their permitted usage alongside the caveat that residents may have their accounts restricted to limited access (non-cash only) or have access denied completely. 

Adrian Sireca, of OnlineCasinoGems, states: “For those online fantasy sites, the different rules and regulations of each state can be exhausting. With each offering a different set of constantly changing results, it’s easy to see why the legal team must be rock solid.”

Fantasy football legality by state 

Thanks to the legal system throughout the US, checking whether or not something is A-ok or will generate a jail sentence isn’t always the easiest. 

By far the most reliable way for fantasy football fans to check they’re staying in the correct lane is by viewing the table below for their home state to find the legality situation for four of the top fantasy providers. 

 FanDuelDraftKingsYahooFantasy Draft
New HampshireYesYesYesYes
New JerseyYesYesYesYes
New MexicoYesYesYesYes
New YorkYesYesYesYes
North CarolinaYesYesYesYes
North DakotaYesYesYesYes
Rhode IslandYesYesYesYes
South CarolinaYesYesYesYes
South DakotaYesYesYesYes
West VirginiaYesYesYesYes

Table: Full list of US states and the legality of four of the most popular fantasy football providers 

It’s bad news if you’re a player looking to gamble in Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada or Washington – playing fantasy sports for money is entirely banned in these areas. But, for the majority of other states, all four providers will allow fans to gamble, albeit with a couple of exceptions in which Yahoo will be unavailable. 

As a general rule, if you’re not in the aforementioned shortlist, there should be a place in the league with your name on it, waiting for your entrance into the gambling fantasy football world. 

To cut a long story short

For the majority of fantasy football fans, they’ll be more than happy to find that gambling whilst playing the game is entirely legal in most states. 

However, the keyword in the phrase is “most” and, as of current, there is a small selection of just 7 states that have banned the gambling in the games entirely: 

  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Washington

For those in the above states, there’s not a lot we can do other than offering a shoulder to cry on. Of course, the standard versions (cashless) are available for players to get to grips with, but without money on the line, they’re just a little less exciting.