Responding to complaints from childhood advocates, the NFL has agreed to overhaul its fantasy football game aimed at children aged 6-12. The critics had argued that the game was too much like gambling and could encourage problem behavior later in life.
The agreement came after a meeting with NFL and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the National Council on Problem Gaming (NCPG) and the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling.
For one thing, winners will now be chosen in random drawings instead of based on the number of points that a player earns. The NFL also will no longer offer cash prizes and scholarships and will quit promoting the game in schools. A fantasy sports-based school curriculum will also be discontinued.
"They made significant changes to the game to make it less like gambling," wrote CCFC Executive Director Josh Golin in an email. "Because of this, kids will no longer have any kind of financial stake in the outcome of the games."
Officials from the CCFC and NCPG wrote a letter to the NFL in February complaining about its "aggressive" marketing of a fantasy football contest for children that offered grand prizes of $5,000 or a vacation for three in Hawaii. Weekly winners could get Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox One consoles and Madden NFL 16 games. The game was advertised on the NFL's Rush website for kids and SIKIDS.com, the online version of Sports Illustrated intended for children.
The NFL, which is by far the most popular U.S. professional sport, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, more than 57 million people in the U.S. and Canada play fantasy sports, an increase from 32 million in 2010. While critics have likened daily fantasy sports to gambling, the industry rejects that characterization. Opponents have cited a 2014 study of college students that found a correlation between fantasy sports participation and gambling-related problems.