A Rose By Any Other Name

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My question to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who just declared that fantasy sports betting is illegal in New York State, is why stop there? How about declaring stock trading and Wall Street illegal too? Seriously Eric, do you see a difference? Because I don’t. They don’t call it “playing” the market for nothing. The stock market is a gambling game with a an element of skill. If the definition of gambling is taking a risk without the certainty of a particular outcome, stock market “investing,” better known as speculating, is the poster child of that practice. Wall Street is the biggest gambling casino in the world.

Why do we give it a pass?

Some would argue that with Wall Street you’re investing in a company. You “own” something. It either goes up in value or goes down, but you own it and you can sell it when you see fit. There’s a tangible asset. Fantasy sports owners might make the same argument. “I own Marcus Mariotta. I purchased him for X dollars. If his value goes up, I get paid in escalating amounts. If his value goes down (i.e. he doesn’t perform well), I may well lose all the money I invested. In terms of liquidity, you are less locked in on the stock market, but there are certainly financial devices that are legal that entail just as much risk as fantasy sports.

And for all the arguments that the stock market supports companies by, in effect, making ownership communal, does anyone at this point really think that most investors give a rat’s ass about the companies they invest in, except insofar as they prove profitable for them or not?

In the end whether you are betting on which horse finishes first in a race, which receiver catches the most balls on a given day, or which company developing self-driving cars corners the market first, is there any real difference? I don’t really care whether or not we as a society choose to support or outlaw the business of trying to pick winners for a profit–let’s just be consistent about it. The hypocrisy is what I hate. And the self-righteousness.

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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