If you are one of the 30,000,000 people expected to participate in a Fantasy Football League (FFL) this season, you may be running afoul of the law. If you want to assume that risk, you should know how the prosecutor would go about proving his (or her) case against you...
*The below entry speaks to NY State Law only and does not attempt to examine Federal Law.
NY State Law
As of the drafting of this post, there are no published legal opinions dealing with prosecution of Fantasy Football in New York State Courts. If a participant were arrested, he (or she) would likely be prosecuted under Section 225 of New York States Penal Law (Gambling Offenses). That section of the Penal Law requires the People to prove, among other elements, that the defendant entered into a "contest of chance".
The prosecutor would argue that FF is a contest of chance because FFL participant's lack the ability to control the performances of the athletes and the participant's performance in the FFL involves chance guesses.
In defending someone charged under PL § 225, your lawyer would set out to prove that FF is predominated by skill and therefore outside of the ambit of the statute (similar to chess, checkers, billiards, and bowling).
1) If you are considering participating in Fantasy Football this season, realize you may be subjecting yourself to criminal liability.
2) If you want to assume that risk, join a league that requires as much skill as possible. Ask yourself, does the prospective league:
-Have a live-draft (skill) or an auto-draft (chance)?
-Allow trading of players (requires negotiation skills) or is it a no trade league (chance)?
-Mandate that the participants are active in setting their line-up (skill) or does it allow for passive players (chance)?
Remember, when you subject yourself to criminal liability any measures you take to protect yourself might not make a difference in the end.
*If you think you need personalized legal assistance, always speak with a qualified attorney.