Politics does, in fact, make strange bedfellows. Following last March, when the NCAA squared off against Indiana over the now-defunct RFRA, it’s either refreshing or just plain weird to see Governor Mike Pence and the organization actually agreeing on something.
That something is fantasy sports. Last fall, NCAA laid down the law to TV networks: there would be no sponsorship or advertising activity for DraftKings or FanDuel during televised college sports championships.
In the waning days of March, Pence signed legislation regulating the daily fantasy sports sites in his state. And among those regulations was that no fantasy games involving college athletics would be allowed, according to an article in the Evansville Courier and Post.
That’s just fine with the NCAA, which according to an article in MediaPost, wrote a letter to DraftKings and FanDuel, stating, “As we have communicated to you previously, since your games meet the definition of sports wagering within our bylaws, the NCAA will not allow advertising of your products in connection with NCAA championships, including television broadcasts.”
NCAA also added that advertising activity is “inconsistent with our values, bylaws, rules and interpretations regarding sports wagering” and could violate “various state laws.”
The letter also asked DraftKings and FanDuel to stop offering fantasy contests based on college sports. This edict apparently has been followed, since presently, no college sports are listed on either company's websites.
The IndyStar noted that Mark Lewis, the NCAA’s executive vice president of championships, said the NCAA had informed referees and other game officials that they were prohibited from participating in paid fantasy sports games.
NCAA student athletes are also prohibited from playing fantasy sports for money, noted the Washington Post. In fact, the NCAA has gone so far as to print a brochure explaining this to students.
Of course, the article noted, the odds against being caught doing so are exponential “and the NCAA knows this. A 2013 survey of student-athletes conducted by the NCAA found that 20 percent of college athletes participate in fantasy leagues with entry leagues and cash prizes, risking their eligibility in the process. But investigations are rare: A 2014 story from Inside Higher Ed cited one case of a golf coach at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who played in several fantasy leagues with entry fees as high as $1,300. He also got three of his players to act as commissioners of his various leagues. The team was placed on two years probation.”
The issue of whether fantasy sports constitute gambling has been debated for years, and an increasing number of states are regulating them. (If you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, you can find an updated chart of which states allow it, which don’t, and which companies are restricted, by clicking here.) It's essential to note that many pro leagues disallow gambling but turn a blind eye to fantasy sports, unless, of course, they're the Minnesota Vikings, who unveiled an entire suite dedicated to fantasy sports as part of recent stadium renovations.
Indiana’s regulations will require all fantasy sports organizations to register with the Indiana Secretary of State, pay a $50,000 fee and follow other regulations as well. Players will have to confirm they are at least 18 years of age before playing and sites will have to make clear, before games start, how many people are playing and how the money will be doled out at the end of the competition.
The bill's author, Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, said he penned the legislation to make state residents feel more secure when playing online. In the past, there have been very few regulations on the games one million Hoosiers reportedly take part in.
"This is going to allow people that play fantasy sports to know they're operating on a level playing field," Ford said.
The bill goes into effect July 1, meaning the sites will be registered and running in plenty of time for the start of fantasy football, the most popular fantasy sport, in September.
Just no college fantasy football.