Paris just got shot up – and probably there are creeps out there looking to do the same (or worse) here in America. You’d think the federal government – and state governments – would have better things to do than launch a jihad against people who play fantasy football.
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department and the FBI are “investigating” fantasy sports leagues sites FanDuel and DraftKings, not unlike 1920s-era Prohees went after people for having a beer, in violation of the Volstead Act, which illegalized alcohol.
Fast forward to now and the “vice” at issue is putting together a fantasy football team and playing against others who’ve done the same. This harmless – or at least, victim-free pastime – is now the focus of the same misguided moralizing busybodyism that gave us Prohibition back in the 1920s.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board recently decreed that fantasy sports constitutes “gaming” (like online poker) and therefore requires an expensive license – payable, naturally, to the government. The FBI and Justice Department are busying themselves with the constitutional non sequitur as to whether fantasy sports leagues qualify an exemption from the 2006 federal ban on Internet gambling.
Meanwhile, Jihadi John makes videos … and gets ready for more.
It would be clown car comical were it not so serious. The diversion of resources and misguided focus of the federal apparat is appalling – and unconscionable. You’d think they’d have better things to do – but apparently, not.
The bleating about the “dangers” of fantasy sports is risible. Because the object of this exercise is not to ban the activity. It is to control – and profit – from it. The objection – mostly sallying forth from the “brick and mortar” casinos that hold sway over pretty much everything that involves politics in Nevada – is that fantasy football (and so on) is the same thing as betting on the outcome of an NFL game and thus, “betting on sports” and thus falls under the existing laws that give state bureaucrats the empower to regulate and profit from such activity.
Except, there is no game. No actual players. It is fantasy football. Nothing actually takes place except in the minds of the players. To call this “betting on sports” is not unlike characterizing random thoughts about a pretty girl you saw at the bar as a marriage proposal. Pete Rose got in trouble because the teams he bet on were real – and the argument could be made that real harm might have resulted because real people were actually involved in actual sports contests. But a fantasy roster has no reality; there is no possibility of harm – no matter which “team” ends up winning.
The whole thing is silly – and vicious.
Is there anything the government won’t leave alone?
Who is harmed by guys getting online and putting their fantasy “team” up against other guys’ equally fantasized teams? Will the government decide that Halo5 matches also constitute “betting on sports”?
Minimally, though, the Feds have no role – constitutionally – to play. There are bigger fish to fry – and regardless, this is a 10th Amendment case-in-point. Where is the legal authority for the federal government to involve itself in this matter? Why not leave each state free to decide what is – and isn’t – acceptable within its borders? That was what the Constitution intended. It is also why the 10th Amendment was added to the Constitution. To prevent federal over-reach by defining (and so, limiting) the scope of the federal government’s lawful authority. Lately – as in cases such as this – the principle of federalism, of leaving the states largely free to set policy within their borders – has been grossly abused through deliberate neglect.
One of the very real but not recognized dangers of federal involvement in this issue is that Washington could decree either way.
The hopeful assumption of the Prohees (so to speak) is that Washington will outlaw “online gambling” (fantasy sports and otherwise) altogether. But what if it does the reverse? Then states that don’t want it will have no choice but to allow it – just as states that do want it might be compelled by federal fatwa to disallow it. And if Washington can regulate – can dictate – on this question, what questions will it refrain from meddling in?
We live in crazy – and dangerous times. Which is why it’s so crazy – and dangerous – for government officials to be wasting their time (and our money) on nonsense such as micromanaging and persecuting fantasy football leagues.
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