EDITORIAL: More 'fantasy' than you realize

York Dispatch

Drop by a York County sports bar during a fall Sunday, and you'll find dozens of your neighbors happily mesmerized by the flickering action on the various televisions throughout the facility.

Some are there simply to cheer on their favorite pro football team.

Others are there because they enjoy the communal atmosphere.

More than a few, however, are there because they want to watch multiple games at one time, while also constantly monitoring their electronic devices.

Those are likely the fantasy players.

If you're a sports fan, you already know what fantasy sports are all about.

Fans select a lineup of players they feel will excel and pile up statistical points during a given day, weekend or week. They then go to one of the fantasy websites — FanDuel and DraftKings control 95 percent of the billion-dollar industry — and make a wager. They'll then compete against hundreds of thousands of other fantasy players across the nation and world.

If they're lucky enough and smart enough, they can win $1 million, or more, on a single weekend on a relatively small wager.

There's a harsh reality to fantasy sports gambling, however.

Joe Sixpack has little chance of winning.

Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal analyzed the first half of the Major League Baseball season and found that 1 percent of daily fantasy players paid 40 percent of entry fees, but collected 91 percent of prize money. The numbers are likely similar for other sports.

The professional "sharks" or "sharps" use complicated computer software programs to help them make their player picks. They will then enter hundreds or even thousands of lineups per day.

They simply overwhelm the competition with their large number of entries and their technological and economic advantages.

For the most part, the average guy who puts in a couple hours of Internet research per week into two or three lineups just doesn't stand a chance.

Because of that, and the wagering involved, there's been an increasing call for government intervention.

That doesn't seem necessary — our government should have more important issues to address than fantasy sports contests.

But the York County folks who wager some of their hard-earned cash each week on fantasy sports should be made aware that the odds are firmly stacked against them.

It's a simple case of buyer beware.

Despite the long odds, many small-time players enjoy the action that comes with fantasy sports. They say it makes the games much more exciting.

If that's the case, and you can afford to make the wagers, have a blast. It's your money and it's your life.

Just know that you're probably not going to get rich doing it. In fact, in the long run, you're almost certain to lose money.

In that respect, it's no different than any other form gambling.

The house always wins.