State rep seeks to allow popular fantasy sports games in Alabama
Technology provides consumers access to most anything these days, right from their fingertips. Getting directions, finding out the weather, listening to music, watching movies and playing games have all been reduced to an app on your phone.
One member of the Alabama legislature wants to expand those game options for the state’s fantasy sports fanatics.
State Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) has sponsored a bill which will permit consumers in Alabama to engage in daily fantasy sports contests most often played through an app like the ones on a phone.
In fantasy sports contests, participants choose a virtual team of real-world pro athletes to create lineups which then compete against lineups assembled by other game players. The competition occurs based on the statistical performance of those athletes.
The fantasy players whose athletes perform the best — statistically — win.
Among the sports from which a daily fantasy player can choose are football, basketball, baseball, NASCAR and golf.
South thinks much of the popularity behind fantasy sports games comes from the camaraderie between contestants.
“It’s an interaction between fans and the sports that they love and their peers,” he explained. “It’s a peer to peer game. It allows you to have an interest in a sporting event that you might otherwise not have.”
All of the states bordering Alabama allow for the playing of daily fantasy sports either through an app or online. The games are played in 43 total states.
While neighboring states have been able to gain a clearer understanding of fantasy sports, South believes some confusion still exists in Alabama about the nature of the games.
He points out that fantasy sports games require considerable skill and knowledge of the athletes and teams for which they play.
South says the difference between skilled and unskilled players matters in fantasy sports, and that’s what makes it different from sports gambling.
“No offense to my mom, but if we play ten times I’m going to beat her all ten times,” he contended.
He said that there is no doubt a clear skill requirement exists in fantasy sports, and he also sees a parallel between fantasy sports and the modern version of sports on the field.
“One thing you can point to are all these major league baseball teams, these professional sports teams are going to an analytics-based system for choosing their players,” South said. “And that’s all we’re doing here.”
The type of analytics-based approach South refers to has taken off in professional sports to the point where an MIT graduate with no professional baseball experience is now the general manager for the San Francisco Giants.
The legislation will simply allow people to play a game where they can be the general manager of their own virtual sports teams, South says.
The average fee to enter a daily fantasy sports contest and compete against other players is three dollars, according to industry data. An estimated 53 million people nationwide participate in fantasy contests. And, in Alabama, an estimated 700,000 people have played fantasy sports.
Aiming to clear up the confusion surrounding the games, South revised his legislation during the committee process to ensure that sports gambling activity would not pop up if his bill became law.
“We added an amendment that made the focus of it a lot more narrow,” he said.
Applying some of his own experience in sports to how fantasy sports are conducted allows him to make comparisons he hopes will help, as well.
“I’m a golfer but same goes for a fishing tournament where you pay an entry fee and the winner receives a cash or cash equivalent prize,” South pointed out. “Some variables are based on chance like conditions and water temperature but the dominant factor is skill. The same applies to fantasy sports.”
It all goes back to being smart about which players you choose and when you play them, South says.
“If we say that there is nothing to the science of analytics, then why does Bill Belichick and the Patriots keep winning every year?” he asked.
Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News