Gambling or skill? Alabama lawmakers ponder whether to turn fantasy sports into a reality

By John Sharp

Is fantasy sports gaming a battle of wits and smarts that’s worthy of free-market protection? Or is it just dolled-up digital gambling that deserves being outlawed? Josh Adams, following the debate in Montgomery from 50 miles away, can speak to the questions as well as anyone in the country.

Adams, 38, who lives in Auburn, is already nationally known for his views on the matter.

In the past two years, both the New York Times and the PBS show “Frontline” have come to talk to Adams, a recovering gambling addict, featuring him in deeply-reported stories about fantasy sports gaming and the risky obsessions associated with it.

“I want people in Alabama to be able to play daily fantasy sports,” Adams, who works for an entertainment production company in Opelika, said in an interview this week with “Most people can play responsibly.”

And for people who can’t play responsibly, like himself, Adams insists that the industry owes them forthright warnings to stay away, and to tell them where to find help.

In the Legislature, three bills are in play to legalize daily fantasy sports gaming by Alabama players. And the brains-vs.-luck debate is well under way.

“To me, I don’t see it as the same type of gambling that I’ve been opposed to in the past such as the casino-type of gambling,” said Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, who is sponsoring one of the bills. “It’s about the skills of picking teams that are playing once a day or a couple times a week.”

Countered Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program – an organization funded by Alabama churches that opposes gaming of any kind: “It’s nothing more than online casinos. They say it’s all skill. It’s not.”

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