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NFL players can play daily fantasy, they just can’t win much

As the daily fantasy phenomenon mushrooms, the NFL continues to embrace the game that millions are playing. And NFL players are allowed to play daily fantasy games.

They’re just not allowed to win much.

"[F]antasy football games and League or Club-sponsored skills competitions (e.g., racquetball tournaments, ‘Club Olympics’ events) for prizes generally are not considered to be gambling or a gambling-related activity, provided that there is no wagering on the outcome,” the league’s policies for players state. “NFL Personnel may not, however, accept prizes with a value in excess of Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250) in any fantasy football game. This prohibition is intended to avoid any appearance of impropriety which may result from participation in fantasy football games by individuals perceived to have an unfair advantage due to their preferential access to information.”

The $250 rule, according to the league office, applies to all NFL and team personnel -- players, coaches, executives, everyone.

It creates an odd dynamic, especially with (as reported by Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Daily) the NFL Players Association’s marketing arm signing a group licensing deal with DraftKings, which means players will be actively marketing a product that they themselves can use only on a limited basis.

“You can win a million bucks! I can’t, which sucks. But you can!”

The league’s clumsy balancing act with legal fantasy football for money and illegal gambling will continue to raise eyebrows. The ship already has sailed on daily fantasy; the industry had the ability to lobby for a federal law making it not gambling in 2006 -- and the industry has millions more now to protect its ever-expanding turf.

If fantasy football isn’t gambling because it involves skill and not chance, betting on football isn’t gambling, either. Indeed, it takes more skill and less chance to pick football winners against the spread than to cobble together a mismatched lottery ticket of different players from different teams in different stadiums under different conditions that is thrown into a giant hopper with competing lineups selected by hundreds if not thousands of others.

If daily fantasy is legal, wagering on football should be legal, too. All wagering should be legal; if people want to piss away their money games of skill or chance or both, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do it?

Implicit in the power to pursue happiness is the privilege to squander it. If an adult wants to try to get rich quick via stocks or real estate or pork belly futures or daily fantasy or betting on football or roulette or dice or craps or whether Creed Bratton realizes he just took a bite out of a potato and is willing to risk getting poor to do it, the government shouldn’t get in the way -- especially if the government isn’t getting in the way for several of those get-rich-quick-get-poor-quicker opportunities.