DFS Discussed in Republican Presidential Debate

I apparently don’t like myself, as I watched the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night. I mean, I like a warm breeze as much as the next guy, but the hot wind coming from my television was a bit much. Late in the proceedings, I had already had more than my fill and was praying for a merciful end when, to my surprise, the topic of daily fantasy sports (DFS) was actually broached by CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla.

While brief, it was actually one of the more entertaining exchanges of the night. The question was posed to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, brother of former U.S. President George W. Bush, and son of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush:

Governor Bush, daily fantasy sports has become a phenomenon in this country, will award billions of dollars in prize money this year. But to play, you have to assess your odds, put money at risk, wait for an outcome that’s out of your control. Isn’t that the definition of gambling and should the federal government treat it as such?

Regardless of one’s thoughts on whether or not fantasy sports qualify as gambling, Bush’s response was actually reasonable:

Well first of all, I’m 7 and 0 in my fantasy football league. Gronkowski is still going strong, I have Ryan Tannehill, Marco [Florida Senator Rubio, to whom he gestures], as my quarterback; he was 18 for 19 last week. So I’m doing great, but we’re not gambling and I think this is has become something that needs to be looked at in terms of regulation. Effectively, it’s day trading without any regulation at all and when you have insider information – which apparently has been the case – where people use that information, use big data to try to take advantage of it, there has to be some regulation. If they can’t regulate it themselves, then the NFL needs to look at moving away from them a little bit and there should be some regulation. I have no clue whether the federal government is the proper place. My instinct is to say, “Hell, no,” just about everything about the federal government.

Now first, I’m going to call bullshit on his claim that he is undefeated (and he’s also clearly talking about season-long fantasy football, not DFS). If he homered it up and is running with Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill this season, he can’t be doing THAT well, despite Tannehill’s fantastic performance this past weekend. I suppose he might have Aaron Rodgers or Andy Dalton as his normal starter, as they were on byes during Week 7, so if that is the case, I do apologize.

Bush clearly didn’t prepare for this question, as he actually said, “I have no clue whether the federal government is the proper place,” and like most people who haven’t paid close attention, he doesn’t realize that no wrongdoing was found in the DraftKings “insider trading” case, but overall, he wasn’t really off-base in what he said. I don’t exactly agree on his assessment that fantasy sports isn’t gambling, but it’s not an idiotic opinion or anything.

But Jeb Bush wasn’t the only one to weigh in on the subject. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose state is one of just three in the nation (along with Nevada and Delaware) to have legalized, regulated intrastate online gambling, made sure he was heard before the moderators either went to someone else for input or moved on to answer question. Addressing both the moderators and the television camera with a completely incredulous look on his face, Christie said:

We’re talking about getting the government involved in fantasy football? We have – wait a second – we have 19 trillion dollars in debt, we have people out of work, we have ISIS and Al Qaeda attacking us and we’re talking about fantasy football? Can we stop? Can we stop? Seriously.

Needless to say, in front of a Republican crowd, that got quite the ovation.

And that was it. Unlike with other questions, there was no back-and-forth between candidates, no arguing and yelling over each other. And why would there be? While daily fantasy sports are of importance to us in the online gambling world, most people, especially those trying to become the leader of the free world, couldn’t care less about it. It was very surprising that the topic was brought up at all and, frankly, I question the decision process behind it. As much of a farce as these Republican debates are, the moderators don’t need to make them even more ridiculous by asking questions that 99 percent of the population don’t care at all about. Might as well ask the candidates what they would want their Secret Service codename to be.

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