Recovering Addict Says Fantasy Sports ‘Absolutely’ Is Gambling

By Victoria Kim 11/24/15

The unregulated multi-billion dollar industry is coming under fire.

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Joshua Adams is fulfilling his final step of recovery, to help other gamblers by telling his story. He was interviewed by The New York Times about his addiction, and the dangerous lure of fantasy sports.

It all started when a 13-year-old Adams placed a $10 bet on an NFL game. By the time he first joined Gamblers Anonymous, he owed $30,000 to friends and family. Then he discovered fantasy sports.

With a single payout at the end of the season, it didn’t seem like gambling at first. But once he got into daily fantasy games, which are played in shorter periods of time (and has caught fire in recent years), Adams lost control. He lost $20,000 playing daily fantasy games. In time, he became suicidal.

“I wish I never would have gotten back into playing fantasy sports, because for me, and I think for compulsive gamblers, it leads us right back into a destructive state,” he said.

Fantasy sports companies contend that the games involve more skill than luck, which alone is a risk for addiction, according to Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. “The perception of skill has led many, many people down a very dark path,” he said.

Without a doubt, fantasy sports is gambling, said Adams. The unregulated multi-billion dollar industry has come under heat in the past. So far, Nevada and New York have banned daily fantasy games, while Massachusetts has opted to regulate it by proposing safeguards like setting an age limit of 21 to play.

Help for problem gambling is advertised in casinos, but fantasy sites leave out this information. Adams spent 25 days in rehab and attended GA meetings after seeing a number for a help line, but not on a fantasy site. Sites like FanDuel and DraftKings bear no mention of help for problem gambling. Whyte said they have “consistently urged them to list our help line and website,” but still, nothing.

Adams said it would have made a difference for him if fantasy sites offered help for problem gambling, but it would mean admitting that fantasy sports is indeed gambling. “They would have been framing it as betting. And I know that that’s the big question. Is it betting? Is it gambling?”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr