Former NBA chief Stern remains uncertain over fantasy sports

David Stern, the former commissioner of the NBA basketball league, has said that he remains uncertain over the future of fantasy sports in the US, stating this form of gaming remains difficult to distinguish from traditional sports gambling.

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) has been rolled out in a number of states in the US despite ongoing uncertainty over its legality, given its links with traditional sports wagering and betting activities.

Speaking in an interview with Forbes, Stern said that although he can see a future for fantasy sports in the US market, it currently remains unclear whether this form of gaming should be classed as gambling.

“I’m not positive that the exception that permitted fantasy – the drafters of that exception – contemplated the fantasy that is daily fantasy, but I think the language does allow any fantasy to exist,” Stern said.

“The big players coming in are taking advantage of the situation and it’s fair game, like a coach that says to play by the rules, but pushes them a bit.

“I don’t know whether it’s gambling or not gambling; it is what it is and it hasn’t been tested yet, and I think it’s likely to survive the test.”

Stern also addressed the issues of professional sports athletes taking part in such gaming activities, stating that he will stand behind the decision of his successor at the NBA, now-commissioner Adam Silver.

“Whatever he does is fine with me and likely terrific and well thought out,” Stern said.

“If he’s allowing them to do it, I think it’s a great idea; if he’s not allowing him to do it, then I also think it’s a great idea.”

In terms of the sports betting market in the US, Stern suggested once the fantasy sports market become more widely accepted by citizens in the country, then the issue of legalised sports wagering could be revisited.

Stern does have a slight bias towards this market, having invested in AlphaDraft, an e-sports platform provider that was last week acquired by DFS operator FanDuel.

“I think that once the fantasy cat is out of the bag so to speak, then it does pay to revisit the whole issue of making gambling illegal – there’s no question about that,” Stern said.

“I think the bigger concern that I would have, that I shared with Silver, is that somehow the legalisation of gambling gets to be made by states. 

“I do believe that gambling should be legalised and it should be done on a federal level.

“It should be uniform and it should probably recognise the league’s copyrights, trademarks, what have you, and they should be compensated for their position in that.”

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