Al Sharpton Urges FTC to Tackle DraftKings, FanDuel Duopoly Risks to Black Bettors

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The Reverend Al Sharpton, a noteworthy civil rights activist and MSNBC host, recently expressed deep concerns about the sway of the gambling industry giants, DraftKings and FanDuel. He conveyed these concerns in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as he urged the regulatory agency to scrutinize the potential harm that such a duopoly could pose, particularly to Black bettors and athletes.

In his poignant letter to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, Sharpton highlighted that the power and dominance of both DraftKings and FanDuel have resulted in weakening consumer protections. He estimated that these two titans account for 75% of all mobile sports bets placed in the United States. Additionally, incorporating other contenders such as BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, and Fanatics shows that a small cluster of companies control more than 90% of the domestic mobile betting market.

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Sharpton heartfully penned, “Their dominance and influence have raised serious concerns about competition, fairness, and consumer protection in the market. This is especially troubling when we consider the demographic profile of their user base, with a significant portion being Black Americans.”

These grave words of caution arrive at a time when certain studies point towards a vulnerability of minorities, including African Americans, to problematic wagering practices. Additionally, the industry’s potentially exploitative targeting of these communities is also a point of anxiety.

Evidence does suggest that the burgeoning regulated sports wagering boom in the country was mainly driven by young men, predominantly white individuals with an annual income exceeding $100,000. But as the industry grows, more and more minorities, including Black Americans, are transitioning into sports betting. This trend is evidenced by a 2023 NCAA survey, which highlighted that 68% of young Black adults indulged in sports wagering, a rate higher than any other demographic.

The Reverend rightfully asserts, “When a duopoly seizes control, consumers are the ones who suffer the most. The most vulnerable amongst them, including Black Americans, bear the hardest impacts. Black Americans engage in sports betting more actively than other groups, particularly among young adults, where the engagement rate is noted to be 68%. Furthermore, they also wager more money than any other ethnic group.”

While it remains unclear what measures the FTC might adopt to “bust” the duopoly of FanDuel and DraftKings, or if such a move would even be placed amongst the commission’s top priorities, Sharpton’s timely intervention reverberates with salient concerns. In the backdrop of several red flags and scandals in the industry, including the shocking lifetime ban on Jontay Porter, former player for the Toronto Raptors, for betting on games, and the widening scandal around Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter, Sharpton’s call to action seems all the more vital.

Sharpton warns, “Sports are at the heart of American culture, and Black athletes are at the core of American sports. If sports betting and gaming infiltrate and compromise the integrity of the games, it adversely impacts Black athletes and consumers.” His fervent appeal to the FTC foments a much-needed discourse on responsible betting and the integrity of the games against a backdrop of predatory capitalism and social inequality.