Addicted to a Fantasy?

February 9, 2016
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by Patrice Taddonio Assistant Director of Audience Development

For some fans, the explosion of the daily fantasy sports industry has meant big bucks.

For many others, daily fantasy can be a losing bet — especially so for problem gamblers.

“It would be akin to an alcoholic finding out about a whole new street of bars that he or she never knew about,” Josh Adams, a recovering gambling addict, says of the moment he discovered daily fantasy sports in the below excerpt from The Fantasy Sports Gamble, tonight’s new FRONTLINE documentary.

The film is a collaboration with The New York Times, which reported on Friday that both the F.B.I. and the I.R.S. division of criminal investigation are now looking into how fantasy sports affect problem gamblers.

Unlike other forms of Internet gaming, fantasy sports were exempted from a 2006 law Congress passed that outlawed most forms of online gambling. That loophole paved the way for the rise of the daily fantasy sports industry — whose leaders describe the contests as a games of skill and entertainment, not gambling.

And that’s how it looked to another gambling addict, Paul — who thought he had his addiction under control when he began playing daily fantasy.

“I didn’t think it was gambling,” says Paul, who asked FRONTLINE and The New York Times to conceal his identity because he’s afraid of ruining his career prospects.

Paul says he lost $60,000 through daily fantasy sports. Like Adams — who says he ultimately lost close to $20,000 — he says he’s now stopped playing. But for both men, ubiquitous advertising from market leaders DraftKings and FanDuel remains a trigger.

“The only urges I still have is when I see the daily fantasy sports advertising,” Adams says in the below excerpt. “They leave out what they are taking in. And they don’t say that there are going to be more losers than there are winners.”

For more on daily fantasy sports — which an increasing number of attorneys general now say constitute illegal gambling — watch The Fantasy Sports Gamble. The documentary investigates the meteoric rise of daily fantasy sports, the serious challenges facing the industry, and the wider world of online sports gambling — which saw an estimated $140 billion in illegal sports betting in 2014, despite laws meant to stop it.

The Fantasy Sports Gamble begins Tues., Feb. 9, on PBS and online at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST. Check your local PBS station for details.

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