Fantasy sports at work spark concerns after report

Wed Dec 16, 2009 6:03pm EST
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By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) - Fantasy sports leagues are fighting back after a report that Fidelity Investments recently fired four workers for playing fantasy football on the job.

Paul Charchian, president of The Fantasy Sports Trade Association said on Wednesday that it was worried that the case, reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper, marks the start of a backlash by employers against the growing field of online sports gaming.

Fantasy sports games are built around statistics generated by real professional athletes and have become a source of revenue for online companies. Many offices tolerate the games as harmless, or even morale-builders.

But a simmering issue is whether these games amount to gambling, upon which many companies frown.

The Star-Telegram reported that Cameron Pettigrew, a manager at Fidelity's Westlake office in Texas, told the newspaper that he and three other employees had been fired by Fidelity for participating in the fantasy sports.

A Fidelity spokeswoman said Pettigrew had worked for the company from 2007 until October 21 this year, but she declined to comment on the newspaper report. "We have policies in place that address a variety of professional conduct standards for our employees," she said.

The games have champions like the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), whose members include Yahoo Inc and Walt Disney Co's ESPN sports unit, both of which operate large online fantasy leagues.

Charchian told Reuters the leagues do not meet the technical definition of gambling because they typically do not earn a profit for their operators in the way a casino collects a percentage of the money wagered.   Continued...