Virtual teams, real players, professional sports- ROTISSERIE it is!

Introduction:

Rotisserie, a multi-billion dollar industry, which is more commonly known as ‘Fantasy Sports’ around the globe is more of an online game where one can build and manage their own team. It includes competition between two fantasy owners which are based on the statistics generated by the real individual players or teams of professional sport. It is also known as ‘Roto’ in some parts of the world.

Evolution of fantasy sports: [1]

Early traces:

Traces of fantasy sports can be related back to mid-twentieth century, Oakland. It was Wilfred Bill Winkenbach, who devised ‘fantasy golfin’ in 1950s and later the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (GOPPPL), in 1962 which is the first reported fantasy football league.

In 1960 itself, the first fantasy baseball league was formed in Boston, and the idea therefrom was taken to newer levels by the Harvard University sociologist ‘William Gamson’ to Harvard and the University of Michigan.

Modern founding stones: It was the Rotisserie League Baseball 1980 that marked the development of fantasy sports in the contemporary era. The man who initiate this development is Dabiel Okrant, who was a member of India. Okrant’s invention was popularised via News channels, write-ups, and books and very soon Managerial Baseball League became the world’s largest league with 18 teams participating and expansion to 40-man roasters in September (and it holds this record till date).

By 1988, the sport became a hobby and as per an estimate would be played by five hundred thousand people.

Internet’s contribution to the growth and evolution: the era of internet boom changed lives.

A large factor for the growth is credited to the mid-1990s, where use of internet and personal computers flourished. With technology, stats could be easily compiled online and news and information became readily available.

1997- The first ever two sites were debuted, namely-www.Commissioner.com and www.RotoNews.com

Legal history[2]:

Two major legal cases own the credit for the stability and popularity of fantasy industry:

  1. National Basketball Association[3] Motorola Inc.[4]:

The NBA purported that Motorola and Stats infringed the NBA’s copyright on the broadcast of games and misappropriated the data presented on the Sports Tax Pager.

Held: the Second Circuit Supreme Court held that Motorola did not infringe on the NBA’s copyright protected television broadcast or unlawfully misappropriate any proprietary information because the information provided (stats and scores) was purely factual and was gathered at Motorola’s own cost. Although the specifics are a bit outdated today but the holding case remained a precedent for a much longer time.

2.B.C. Distribution & Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media[5][6]

It was this case which settled that even if the players did have a right of publicity in their names and individual statistics, they cannot interfere with fantasy sports. This case cleared the path for the fantasy industry to flourish by granting the public free access to any and all player names and associated statistics, which are generally all that’s needed in fantasy scoring systems.

How the game works?

Step I: The teams in such games compete based on the statistical performance of the actual players that play in the actual games.

Step II: every team manager selects a roaster, who compiles and totals the points according to the statistical performance of the real players.

Step III: these points are calculated via two methods:

  • Manually by a league commissioner, who coordinates and manages the overall league; or
  • Using computers that track the actual result of such sports. 30-40 words

Factors that accelerated its adoption and spread:

  • Adoption of smartphones and tablets, gave the idea a mass appeal.
  • People use phones not just for calling, news and work but also to escape reality, via virtual reality- this fact served as an advantage to introduce such an idea for those who though were players at heart, worked nine-to-five to feed their families.
  • Explosion of sports: sports has become religion today, and to bring it to phones-A remarkable invention!

Legal aspects:[7][8]

Most states have no laws that specifically address fantasy sports but do have gambling laws that might dictate whether they are legal.

Around the globe:

  • Washington: as per the conclusions of the Gambling Commission, fantasy sports wagering is illegal.
  • Massachusetts: lawmakers have proposed specific regulations to protect consumers from fantasy sports.
  • Nevada: regulators have restricted daily fantasy sports to existing casinos.
  • Australia, U.S. & England: fantasy sports are a game of skill.

Indian context:Fantasy sports is considered legal (game of skills) in India,

Challenges to fantasy sports:

  • It is often confused with being unlawful internet gambling, because the definition of unlawful internet gambling is not provided by most legislations, as a result not all fantasy sports are legalised in many states.
    • Humphrey v. Viacom, Inc.[9]: it was in this case that the court made some helpful findings in a qui tam action alleging that fantasy sports constituted illegal gambling but it did not decide whether online fantasy leagues constitute illegal lotteries.
  • There is no establishment of and recognition to ‘qui tam’ suits, in many countries andIndia is one of them.
  • Non-uniform gambling laws: There are states where even if the outcome is based on skill, the activity comes within the ambit of illegal gambling, while there are states like India, where fantasy sports are legal only because it is considered a game of skill.
  • It is unregulated: since, no state yet has a code or piece of legislation that could control activities under fantasy sports, the legality remains in question.

Conclusion:

With well diversified vendors, and adoption of smartphones, despite all odds and challenges this multi-billion dollar industry has become a huge phenomenon today and continues to grow every day. Fantasy sports have a really wide ambit, including in its market companies that develop software and online platforms for multiplayer fantasy sports.

‘Fantasy sport app is totally in the opposite direction of gambling’[10]

Fantasy sports allow everyone to be a manager.With the option to trade and substitute players in one’s team, fantasy sports allows almost anyone to be a real sports manager. It gives fans an opportunity to take their love for the respective game to new horizons.

Although a clear picture of the legality of fantasy sports is to emerge in the time yet to come.

[1]Retrieved from, http://googleweblight.com/?lite_url=https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy_sports&ei=122k54HI&Ic=en-IN&s=1&m=683&host=www.google.co.in&ts=1478175497&sig=AF9NedmbdrTUIOsYTbMX4VtPUq_Tby9jLQ last visited on 6th nov’16, 4:22pm IST

[2] Jason Barmese,’ Fascinating legal history of fantasy sports’,  posted on 9th sept’14,  Retrieved from http://googleweblight.com/?lite_url=http://thefieldsofgreen.com/2014/09/09/the-legal-history-of-fantasy-sports/&ei=WsGH70mE&Ic=en-IN&s=1&m=683&host=www.google.co.in&ts=1478184556&sig=AF9NedkMhbzdzG-0qcOvVuOGN5xkEb1Edw last visited on 6th nov’16, 4:15pm IST.

[3]Hereafter referred as NBA

[4]105 F.3d 841 (2d Cir.1996)

[5]L.P., 443 F.Supp.2d 1077, 80 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1241 (E.D.Mo.2006)

[6]Here after referred as MLBAM

[7] Sharon Fernandes, Times News Network, posted on 13th dec’15, 4:38am IST Retrieved from http://m.timesofindia.com/india/Where-everyone-is-a-team-manager/articleshow/50156569.cms last visited on 4th nov’16, 2:47pm IST

[8]Fantasy sports companies outlawed from operating in New York’, posted on 11th dec’15, 19.42GMT, last modified on 19th sept’16, 17.45 BST, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/11/judge-daily-fantasy-sports-cease-operating-new-york last visited on 4th nov’16, 3:04pm IST

[9] 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44679 (D.N.J. June 19, 2007)

[10]Sam Jones, Ballr CEO


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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AISHWARYA HIMANSHU SINGH

Aishwarya Himanshu Singh is a final year law student. An aspiring researcher who has a deep love for writing. With her first publication at the age of 13, she believes a pen is mightier than the sword. Having authored more than 50 papers she is all set for the ‘writing for a change’ programme.

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