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Online poker, fantasy teams and real-life sports
Online poker, fantasy teams and real-life sports © Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

Online poker, fantasy teams and real-life sports

Online poker and fantasy sports games now have a foothold in real-life sports.

PartyPoker.com, a website where players wager money in online poker games, reached advertising deals with the NHL's New Jersey Devils and NBA's Philadelphia 76ers in 2014. Both teams are owned by Josh Harris.

Unlikely partnership

When it was signed, the multiyear agreement with PartyPoker NJ, a division of Gibraltar-based Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, was reportedly worth $10 million. The deal was the first time that United States professional sports teams partnered with an online gambling operator.

It involved radio and television advertising, as well as signs at the teams' arenas and booths where the millions of NHL and NBA fans who attend games could get information about establishing an online poker account.

Since that groundbreaking sports-and-gambling partnership, the Philadelphia basketball team has changed course a bit. The 76ers terminated the poker deal in 2015, and replaced it with equally controversial fantasy sports giant DraftKings, which many say is thinly disguised online betting.

Several state attorneys general took action against daily fantasy sports operators, notably the 2 biggest players DraftKings and FanDuel, on the grounds that the games violated the states' gambling laws. In response, state legislatures across the country responded, considering measures to legalize the fantasy sports within their borders. Pew Research reports that at least 30 states either have approved or are considering legislation to allow and regulate and/or tax the games. The latest is New York, where the governor on Aug. 3 signed a law legalizing the games. The action comes almost 9 months after the Empire State's attorney general filed injunctions against DraftKings and FanDuel, forcing the companies to suspend operations within the state.

The 76ers and Devils' affiliation with an online betting site upset many sports traditionalists, as well as folks opposed to gambling in general. The shift by the NBA team to fantasy sports isn't likely to ease such criticism. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, however, has no problem with the deal or betting on major league games. In a November 2014 New York Times op-ed, Silver argued for the legalization and regulation of sports betting on professional, not college, athletic events.

In Europe, where gambling on sporting events is commonplace, Bwin has deals with many European sports teams, including soccer teams Real Madrid in Spain, FC Bayern Munich in Germany, Manchester United in the United Kingdom, Olympique de Marseille in France, Juventus in Italy and RSC Anderlecht in Belgium.

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