October 06, 2020 Top Story

Are Fantasy Sports Illegal Gambling?

At least one state says yes, but the debate is not over

By Benjamin E. Long

Fantasy sports contests have been declared illegal in at least one state, but the issue appears far from resolved. Although the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division upheld a lower court ruling that fantasy sports contests violate that state’s constitutional ban on gambling, ABA Section of Litigation leaders believe further litigation is inevitable in New York and elsewhere.

The plaintiffs claimed the amended law, which excluded fantasy sports from the definition of gambling, violated the state constitution

The plaintiffs claimed the amended law, which excluded fantasy sports from the definition of gambling, violated the state constitution

Credit: spxChrome | iStockphoto by Getty Images

Law Change Sparks Debate About Definition of “Gambling”

Article 1 Section 9(1) of the New York State Constitution outlaws “lottery or the sale of lottery tickets, pool-selling, book-making, or any other kind of gambling.” The clause continues by stating that “. . . the legislature shall pass appropriate laws to prevent offenses against any of the provisions of this section.” In 2016, the New York State Assembly amended Article 14 of New York’s Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law to declare that fantasy sports betting should not be included in the definition of gambling.

A few months later, several individuals who claimed their lives were negatively affected by gambling filed a lawsuit for declaratory judgment in White v. Andrew Cuomo, et al. They claimed the law violated the state constitution and demanded that the court enjoin its implementation. The trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, agreeing that the 2016 law was unconstitutional.

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