Fantasy football and fantasy sports, in general, have exploded in popularity over the past ten years. There are thousands of websites, podcasts, and other publications that provide you with information and fantasy sports.

Staying informed is key to being competitive. If you’re a manager, you have to know more than simply statistics to win. You have to take into account coaching styles, home and away stats, injuries, and more.

Tens of millions of Americans play daily fantasy sports online, with that number continuing to grow.

However, there is some confusion about whether daily fantasy sports are allowed and where you have to be located to play legally. There are also general questions about whether daily fantasy is considered gambling.

There’s a distinction that’s important to make here too. Daily fantasy means that you only choose players for a certain day or a week if it’s the NFL. There are also season-long fantasy sports. Daily fantasy usually selects players with a salary cap instead of a snake draft.

When we consider the legality of fantasy football, the question is directed at daily fantasy, which we talk more about below.

Daily Fantasy Sports Aren’t Allowed in Every State

First, daily fantasy sports can’t be played in every state despite the popularity. Daily fantasy is legal in 43 states, and the significant platforms operate in all of them.

States that don’t allow daily fantasy sports are:

  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Arizona
  • Louisiana
  • Hawaii

This is something that changes quickly, however. Many of these states are considering legalizing daily fantasy sports, and several have already introduced legislation.

There are countries worldwide where daily fantasy is also legal, including Canada and places in Europe like Germany and Austria.

Is It Gambling?

There is an element of gambling in daily sports.

You are putting in money and hoping to get more money back in return. However, it’s not entirely based on luck. There is a fair amount of skill that can go into daily fantasy.

To succeed, compared to purely luck-based gambling, you need to have knowledge of the sport and the past performance of players. You need to be able to analyze players and teams as far as how they stack up against each other to improve your chances of winning.

Over time, you build your skills of sports analysis to increase your chances of winning.

The fact that skill plays a role in daily fantasy sports makes a difference from a legal perspective.

For example, the primary federal law governing online gambling and making it illegal in many states is from 1999—the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act. Under this law, there is a particular exemption for fantasy sports, including daily and season-long, as long as your chances of winning are directly related to the skill and knowledge of players.

Since fantasy football again is a skill game rather than one of chance, it’s legal throughout the country.

Real game statistics make a difference in legality, and these actual statistics are what you use to compare the best team.

No game relies on the performance of a single player or team, which is another reason it’s legal. No daily sports game looks at even the score of an individual game. On the other hand, most sports bets do revolve around the score of one individual game.

With daily fantasy, players build their roster and balance it around all the teams playing on any particular day. That could mean that you’re considering different match-ups but also strategizing based on the salary cap imposed by most daily fantasy games.

The point system that determines outcomes has little to do with the amount of points scored in any one event.

However, many states that don’t allow daily fantasy sports have their own laws that don’t offer an exception for online fantasy sports. In some situations, the laws might have exceptions for season-long fantasy sports.

So what’s the big takeaway here?

Basically, on a federal level, daily sports and season-long fantasy sports are entirely legal. On a state level, they’re primarily legal except in a few states, although it’s likely in coming years, that will change given the popularity of these games.

Fantasy sports are federally legal and often legal at the state level because they require skill to succeed in, rather than only being based on luck.

There may be some elements of luck, but there’s a lot more to it than winning money in fantasy sports like fantasy football.