Prizepicks is an app that pushes legal boundaries in the U.S and could begin gambling addictions for users across the country—many of which are underaged.
For context, online gambling is illegal in California. In 2022, two bills that would have legalized it lost in landslide votes. However, daily fantasy sports remain legal, even though new apps like Prizepicks and Boom Fantasy have blurred the line between daily fantasy sports and traditional online gambling.
With daily fantasy apps, users pick a lineup of athletes and compete against other users for money. Players succeed based upon the performance of their chosen athletes. Prizepicks in particular has gained a massive following, with 5.1 million people visiting their website just last month.
The process of picking lineups on Prizepicks, however, is different from a typical fantasy app: users select a lineup of players and then pick over/unders (picking whether a statistic happens more or less than a certain number of times) for these players on various statistics. Users then wager money on their lineup and their wins and losses are determined by whether or not their players meet the over/unders.
This is far more similar to traditional online gambling than daily fantasy. Traditional online betting allows users to bet on almost anything. Their bets can just be one bet or they can include many bets within a larger bet (called a “parlay”). In traditional online betting users can bet on individual athletes as well as teams. In fact, it’s just a few tweaks to traditional online gambling that allows Prizepicks to remain legal in states where online gambling is illegal.
To qualify as a daily fantasy app, Prizepicks users are required to pick at least two different players to wager on, and you can’t pick the same player for different stats. Prizepicks also doesn’t have any team-related bets, although there are some team statistics that can be attributed to a single player. For example, in traditional online gambling, a user might bet that a football team’s defense makes four sacks (when the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage) in a game. On Prizepicks, the user would instead bet on the QB being sacked four times.
The most important difference between Prizepicks and online gambling companies is that the online gambling age requirement is 21. However, users for Prizepicks only need to be 19, and until March 2023, only needed to be 18, which is the minimum age requirement to participate in most daily fantasy. However, there is no way of policing whether or not younger users are lying about their age.
The U.S is already seeing an increase in gambling addictions among young people. Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said in an interview with Pew Research, “We believe that the risks for gambling addiction overall have grown 30% from 2018 to 2021, with the risk concentrated among young males 18 to 24 who are sports bettors.”
Similar to hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, gambling affects the brain’s reward system by re-wiring it to crave the thrill of a victorious bet while overlooking the risks. Moreover, in an interview with UCLA Health, professor of psychiatry Dr. Timothy W. Fong said, “Gambling, unlike any other addiction, is associated with cognitive distortions … People say, ‘If I keep gambling then eventually I’ll win.’ You don’t say that about alcohol, tobacco or cocaine.”
The long-term effects of gambling at a young age include a higher risk of depression, drug addiction, suicide and anxiety. Furthermore, kids who gamble at a young age are more likely to commit crimes and have lower grades.
The lower age requirements of new daily fantasy apps encourage gambling addictions in young adults. We need to enforce strict regulations for these up-and-coming sites in order to ensure that they do not heavily incorporate aspects of traditional online gambling and that they do not allow users to join below a proper age.