As the nation’s football fans turn to their computers for this year’s fantasy season, Gamblers Anonymous may soon sound an alarm about the game’s addictive qualities.
According to an investigative report from NBC Washington, the trustees of Gamblers Anonymous are considering adding fantasy football and other fantasy sports to their "Gamblers Anonymous Combo Book,” a recovery guide alerting compulsive gamblers of activities to avoid.
Many experts are quick to note not everyone who plays fantasy sports are addicts, but some psychiatrist and behavioral health advocates are concerned that fantasy sports are quite alluring those addicted to gambling.
Fans' addictions to their fantasy teams are apparent in households across the U.S. While at dinner with his wife, San Diegan Jed Apostol is on his phone, checking in on his fantasy football league among other things.
“I love football,” Apostol explained, “so I get to play general manager of a team for a sport I love."
That love for the game pushes him to spend a minimum of one hour a day checking up on his team.
“He is analyzing,” said his wife Eryn de Leon. “He has spreadsheets, Excel files.” She joked about her husband needing help, saying it’s under control for now.
Psychiatrist Clark Smith, who specializes in treating addictions, said most people, like Apostol, can handle playing fantasy sports.
“It’s a pleasant game, past time, but if you are a gambling addict and a little fantasy football
gets you a little high, you’re going to want to go for the big high and go back to Las Vegas or whatever behavior got you into trouble,” he said.
Peter Schoenke, president of fantasy sports site Rotowire.com, also serves as chairman of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.
He said he's sympathetic to compulsive gamblers’ needs, but noted that fantasy sports are games of skill, not chance.
“Fantasy football is a good hobby,” explained Schoenke. “Sure there are some ways you can play for money, but it's a game of skill. Not gambling.”
NBC Washington has learned the Gamblers Anonymous trustees are scheduled to vote in October on whether to add fantasy football to their combo book. The most recent addition of the book tells compulsive gamblers to avoid lottery tickets, raffle tickets and office sport pools.