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Can Daily Fantasy Sports Lead To Problem Gaming?

Associated Press

If you watched any sport on television over the past year, you probably saw an ad for companies like DraftKings or FanDuel.

They promised big prizes for winning fantasy sports games that you could play every day.

The companies say what they offer isn't gambling, but instead a game of skill.

Many states – Nevada included – disagree.

And those who deal with problem gaming say these services are another way to stoke gambling addiction.

"Fantasy sports meets the basic definition of gambling," Carol O'Hare, executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gaming, told KNPR's State of Nevada.

She said putting 'fantasy' in front of it doesn't change what it does.

"There is some concern that the group of people who are most attracted to this type of gambling are a high risk group," she explained. "Predominately young, male, skill-based sports enthusiasts -- these are the guys hanging out in the sports book. These are the guys who are already pumped up and playing these games."

O'Hare said people may not even realize this kind of gambling could become addictive. She says whether you are putting money in a slot machine or betting on game of pool, there is risk.

"Ultimately, we just want people to recognize the risk is there, and where we have risk we need to have information and resources available," she said.

Oscar Sida is a mental health and addictions counselor and a visiting faculty member at UNLV. 

He told KNPR's State of Nevada that addiction is not triggered by one thing. He said people can be at high risk for becoming addicted to gambling because of several factors in their lives, from childhood trauma to current issues.

He said people may not even realize they have those risk factors and may not understand how easily they could become addicted. 

"A lot of people don't know they have these risk factors and that's where prevention comes in," he said. "We do have to translate our research knowledge down to the level where the general public has access to that information to make good decisions."

Casinos have rules they are supposed to follow with people who have a problem with gambling, including posting problem gambling hotline numbers, cutting them off at a certain point and honoring a customer's request to cut them off. 

However, daily fantasy sports companies do not have to follow those rules, so far. 

"That is one of the concerns and part of the focus that we give to any kind of emerging new form of gaming," she said.

O'Hare said acknowledging that it is gaming is really the first step for many people.

"Sadly, I think sometimes that's the piece, the first most important piece that gets downplayed, 'Oh, it's just fantasy,'" she said. "No, it's not just fantasy. You really are making a bet." 

Carol O'Hare, executive director, Nevada Council on Problem Gaming;  Oscar Sida, mental health and addictions counselor and UNLV visiting faculty member

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)