Without Us, They’re Nothing

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This is a postscript to the piece I wrote yesterday about the DraftKings/FanDuel Daily Fantasy Sports scandal.

Last night, I had dinner with a friend who said he took exception to the point of my piece, as he understood it.

“You seemed to be saying that the cheating aspect of it wasn’t the thing people are upset about. But I think that is what they’re upset about.”

“Obviously they’re upset about the cheating aspect,” I said. “But underneath that, the real issue is that Americans have this unhappy moral relationship with gambling. They love to gamble, but they feel that it’s immoral. So in actuality, the cheating has underlined that this activity–fantasy sports–that had heretofore been seen as essentially innocent, is in fact gambling–and in the end that’s what’s going to mobilize the moral police force to outlaw it.”

Do you think if we called Wall Street what it really is–namely state-sanctioned gambling–the moral police would go after it, too?

Meanwhile, speaking of cheating, the Supreme Court just denied a request to review an appeals court decision that makes it easier for Wall Streeters to engage in insider trading. The appeals court decision essentially gives Wall Street insiders the right to pass on privileged and valuable information to their friends and family just so long as they’re not being directly paid for it. This seems like an excellent ruling: let’s make it even tougher to nail people for insider trading. That’ll keep ’em honest.

What’s particularly funny about this for me is that yesterday, when DraftKings, in damage control mode, said that going forward their employees would not be allowed to play on theirs or any other DFS site, my first thought was that that didn’t preclude them from passing on insider info to their friends and family the way Wall Streeters were prohibited from doing.

Oh, right.

Daily fantasy sports and Wall Street do have an awful lot in common. Probably the biggest thing is that both need the suckers of the 99% to put their money up in order to sustain the whole crooked enterprise. And mind you, when I say crooked, what I mean is that the rules aren’t the same for everyone. Whether it is the math quants, the data crunchers, or the people with information unavailable to others, the deck is always and brutally stacked against everyone else. So what’s an outsider to do? Don’t play! Because if we don’t play, the whole enterprise can’t be sustained. So keep that in mind the next time you pony up your hard-earned dollars.

By Peter Alson

Peter Alson is a writer and editor. Among his published books are the memoirs Confessions of an Ivy League Bookie and Take Me to the River. He's also co-authored (with Nolan Dalla) One of a Kind, a biography of poker champion Stuey Ungar, and Atlas, the autobiography of boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas. His articles have appeared in many national magazines, including Esquire, Playboy and The New York Times. He has worked as a writer for People magazine, and as an editor for Playboy and for Hachette Publications. He has written screenplays for Paramount and various independent producers, and his TV pilot, Nicky’s Game, starring John Ventimiglia and Burt Young, appeared in the New York Television Festival and the Vail Film Festival. As a poker player he has finished in the money numerous times in the World Series of Poker and other events. He lives in New York with his wife, Alice, and their daughter, Eden.

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