FRONTLINE | The Fantasy Sports Gamble
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Watch Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 10pm on WMHT TV

Over the past several years, daily fantasy sports have become big business, with fans betting an estimated $2.6 billion in 2015.

Critics say the practice — which has helped some sports fans translate their love of the game into big bucks — amounts to gambling and should be regulated, but companies like DraftKings and FanDuel say it’s entertainment.

Now, with several states questioning the legality of daily fantasy sports, FRONTLINE and The New York Times are teaming up for a documentary that investigates the reality behind the rise of daily fantasy sports, and the proliferation of online sports betting despite the laws meant to stop it. 

In The Fantasy Sports Gamble, Walt Bogdanich, James Glanz and Augie Armendariz of The New York Times trace the growth of these booming businesses, go inside their operations at home and abroad, and reveal how online gambling laws have not only failed to stop the illegal sports betting business, but enabled the growth of the daily fantasy sports business.

“The daily fantasy sports industry as we now know it first emerged from a legal loophole created when Congress tried to shut down online gambling,” Bogdanich says. “The law, which was enacted with the support of the major U.S. sports leagues, made betting on sports illegal but created an exemption for fantasy sports — which, at the time, was a low-key, season-long pastime between friends.”

Since then, as FRONTLINE and The New York Times report, the law has allowed the industry to flourish and become what some state attorneys general say is full-fledged gambling. It has also helped push the broader online sports gambling industry — which saw an estimated $140 billion in illegal sports betting in 2014 — underground.

And that’s where, the investigation finds, online sports betting has become in some cases a shadowy multinational enterprise — where someone can place an online bet from the middle of Manhattan with a company based in Panama and have it show up on their credit card statement as a purchase with a company that sells goggles and hard hats.

Through interviews with prosecutors, regulators, gamblers and a high-tech investigation into the inner workings of online sports gambling at home and offshore, The Fantasy Sports Gamble is a must-watch, inside look at both the technological war between the government and the gamblers, and how daily fantasy sports sites factor in to it all.