The daily fantasy sports industry has exploded in recent years and if it continues in its current trajectory, the sector could be worth $11 billion by the end of the decade. The industry has grown to the extent that all four major US sports leagues, its teams, and some professional athletes have signed varying deals with daily fantasy sports sites to help promote the growth of the business. The increased partnership has also given rise to questions of whether professional athletes in any of these sports leagues can play daily fantasy sports for real money.
A report from Bloomberg Business revealed that the answer to this question varies depending on the league.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
Major League Baseball arguably has the clearest rules on the issue following a recent agreement hatched by the league and its players’ union. The agreement says that players won’t be allowed to join paid fantasy baseball leagues despite the fact that the league currently has a sponsorship deal with DraftKings, universally considered as the second-biggest fantasy site.
“We want it to be about competition on the field and for on-field personnel to have no other outside influences on them with regard to the game,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told Bloomberg.
That said, players are still allowed to sign sponsorship deals with any daily fantasy site, provided that they’re not asked to participate in any paid contests.
National Basketball Association (NBA)
The NBA is a little less clear on the issue, although NBA spokesman Mike Bass told Bloomberg that that NBA players and personnel are “prohibited from participating in NBA fantasy leagues that require payment of an entry fee or award prizes to participants.”
But Gary Kohlman, general counsel of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), refuted that there were concrete rules in place, telling Bloomberg that the union hasn’t been given any notices or advisories of the supposed ban. “Irrespective of whether anyone would agree that such a rule is appropriate or not, the NBPA’s position is that rules affecting player conduct are a subject of collective bargaining,” Kohlman added.
The league’s current collective bargaining agreement ends in 2017 and daily fantasy sports could be part of the negotiations, albeit down the list after the two sides decide how to split the new multibillion-dollar television contract.
National Hockey League (NHL)
The NHL is in a similar boat as the NBA in its position that it doesn’t consider daily fantasy sports as a form of gambling. But it has also advised its players that they aren’t allowed to participate in pay-to-play fantasy hockey-based games.
The issue has been rather muted compared to the NBA, something NHL Players’ Association spokesman Jordan Weatherdon touched on a few months ago when he said that both sides haven’t had any discussions on the subject matter.
But unlike the NBA, the NHL’s current collective bargaining agreement won’t expire until the 2021-2022 season. If there are discussions on the issue between the league and the players, there’s a good chance that it will happen well before the current CBA expires.
National Football League (NFL)
Somewhat surprisingly, the NFL appears to be the league with the least misgivings about its players participating in these games. According to Bloomberg, both NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy and NFL Players Inc. president Ahmad Nassar agreed that the league has “no issues” on the matter, although Nassar did say that the union is watching the situation “closely.”
“We’ve been in discussions about it,” he said last January. “As a general matter, those are league rules and if they want to change the rules they’d have to talk to the union about it.”