At this time last year, the eyes of three gamblers were fixed on the final two minutes of the Phoenix Suns vs. the Atlanta Hawks regular season game.
At any given moment, the anxious viewers could cut the tension and explode in disgust or victory.
The Hawks, who had already clinched a playoff bid and weren’t playing any of their starters, were obliterating the abysmal Suns by almost 30 points. So why the hell would anyone care?
Because between the three fans, there was over $90 riding on these last two minutes.
Serious stakes, serious stress, serious heartache – and the potential loss of a serious amount of money.
Yet, these gamblers had to finish their chemistry homework first before they could watch.
East sophomores Ben Walters*, James Washington*, Paul Johnson* and junior Zach Smith* are just a few East students who have become part of the new fantasy sports craze: FanDuel.
A craze that, while lawful for those over the age of 18, is illegal for these high school students.
The site allows the user to enter into contests that vary in price range and payout. The player can enter into a new game every night in a variety of sports.
Players select a lineup of athletes who are playing in games and then compete against other lineups for a chance to win a cash prize.
Walters, a FanDuel veteran of over a year, has put thousands of dollars into the game. He recalls the elation of the times when he has “cashed out” on all of his entries, making himself a profit of $1000 in just one day. But then, there are also the off nights.
“God damn it, Muscala!” Walters said. “You just cost me 50 bucks.”
This is the real price of FanDuel: accepting the losses with the wins.
“You just gotta realize that you’re gonna lose sometimes,” Walters said. “You can’t win if you don’t take a chance.”
That mentality, however, has been the cause for some really off nights. Laughing about it now, Walters grudgingly relinquishes the fact that he once lost $1200 in a single night.
“I had made a ton of money earlier that day,” Walters said. “And I guess I just got carried away.”
But even that didn’t stop him. The next day Walters was back scouring the FanDuel forums and Twitter pages, desperately searching for whether Donatas Motiejunas would be starting in place of the injured Dwight Howard.
While he may not have lost $1200, Johnson remembers a night that, in his mind, was almost as bad.
“[I lost] my last 15 bucks,” Johnson said. “And my parents didn’t let me play again till the NFL season.”
To most, $15 is a minor setback, but to Johnson, this meant he had to resist the brutal temptation for the next 147 days till the opening kickoff.
Offering little bonuses for putting in large amounts, Fanduel makes it easy for these gamblers to bet another $50 with one easy click of a button and your parents credit card number.
Johnson’s parents aren’t the only ones who disapprove of the students’ new pastime. Walters, Johnson, Smith and Washington all said that their parents have threatened to make them stop playing at one point or another. And Mr. and Mrs. Smith never said yes in the first place.
The parents shot Smith down the second that he asked to play. According to Smith, they had heard about it from other parents and feared it may be a bad influence on their son. They didn’t want him getting involved with anything “shady.”
“They have no idea that I’ve been playing FanDuel,” Smith said, “and I’m not going to tell them.”
With no background checks or security measures to ensure adults are the ones who are actually playing the game, they are purely relying on the integrity of the user to tell the truth about their age. In reality, all you need to gamble these days is a computer and a credit card number.
Most teens, it turns out, have both.