DIGGING DEEPER: Daily Fantasy Sports - is it a harmless hobby or - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

DIGGING DEEPER: Daily Fantasy Sports - is it a harmless hobby or illegal gambling?

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MADISON (WKOW) -- If you watch sports on television, it's hard to get away from those commercials showing people winning millions of dollars playing daily fantasy sports.

And while more than 50 million Americans are now playing on the websites doing that advertising, controversy has accompanied that growing popularity.

Just two days ago, the New York Attorney General declared daily fantasy to be illegal gambling and ordered the websites that offer it to stop taking bets there. Meanwhile, others say it will lead some participants down the road to addiction.

UW-Madison Freshman Kyle Carbone is aware of the controversy, but he loves playing daily fantasy sports nonetheless.

"When Draft Kings and FanDuel came out, we loved it," the 18 year-old Carbone told 27 News about he and his friends. "We all got on it quickly - started $1 games, $3 games, maximum of $5 games."

Those two companies - Draft Kings and FanDuel - now spend more money on television advertising than any others. That's made possible by a revenue  stream for the daily fantasy industry that will approach $3 billion this year.

Few businesses have benefited more from that boom that one based right here: Rotowire.

"We've been growing at a very good clip, 25, 35 percent the last few years," said Rotowire CEO Peter Schoenke, whose offices sit in the shadow of the Kohl Center on Regent Street.

Rotowire provides all of the player updates and injury status reports for the major websites people use to participate in fantasy sports leagues and daily fantasy sports.

"If you play daily fantasy, you need information more than ever. You need whose in tonight's lineup, who's hurt," said Schoenke, who also serves as the chair of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association's board of the directors. "Obviously daily's created a lot of buzz. They've raised a lot of capital, done a lot of advertising and that's had a meaningful impact on our business and the industry as a whole."

But just as all of the money and excitement of daily fantasy sports continues to grow,, so does the concern that it will lead to some into darkness.

"It's exciting. It's the get rich quick thing and so I think the younger population really needs to be careful, because they're at risk to begin with," said Rose Gruber, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling.

Gruber is making a point to get that message out this year due to daily fantasy's explosive popularity, especially among young men.

"There are gonna be a lot more losers than there are gonna be winners," said Gruber. "So yeah, there may be somebody winning, but think about somebody who's not."

Carbone understands that concern.

"You're risking money to gain more money, so I'm not even sure what the argument is that it's not gambling," said Carbone. "I see the addiction in it immediately."

But those in the fantasy sports industry see it differently.

"It's definitely a game of skill," said Schoenke, who notes that is why daily fantasy sports do not fall under the definition of illegal gambling in Wisconsin law

And despite the opinion of New York's Attorney General, industry professionals have Congress to back them up on that view as well. The U.S. House and Senate passed a bill in 2006 exempting fantasy sports from the legal definition of gambling.

But Gruber feels no matter how Congress rules or what industry insiders say, daily fantasy sports provide just as much danger as online poker or playing the lottery.

"We know that the earlier people start gambling, the more likely they are to become addicted to other things as well - alcohol and drugs, it's kind of a snowball effect," said Gruber.

Schoenke acknowledges that possibility exists. Just last month, the industry's trade group voted to set up the Fantasy Sports Control Agency to look at ways to address gambling and other concerns.

"I think all the companies in this space are very mindful of that. So I think they have some best practices and we're gonna work to put in some more to try and spot that behavior and make sure that no one is doing something detrimental to themselves by playing," said Schoenke.

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