Few complained to FCC about ads for daily fantasy sites

Despite the social media outrage over what some television viewers said was an excessive, even obnoxious, barrage of ads for daily fantasy sites, the actual government regulators who oversee such content received just about a dozen complaints during the height of the ads last fall.

The 15 complaints, provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Outside the Lines, cited viewers' displeasure with the content of the ads, as well as issues with the contests themselves.

They include complaints received from August through Nov. 24, 2015. During that time, DraftKings and FanDuel ran a combined 60,000 advertising spots across more than 60 networks, according to iSpot.tv.

The Federal Communications Commission regulates broadcast content on network and cable television programming and allows viewers to submit complaints via mail and online. It has specific rules for advertisements for gaming and lotteries that relate to state laws on gambling. To date, the FCC hasn't taken any action against either daily fantasy company and has not taken a position on whether they violate any gambling advertising rules.

While daily fantasy companies have insisted they are not gambling, that designation is being tested legally in a number of states, and some have outright banned it.

To give some idea of the volume of complaints the FCC usually receives, more than 200 letters came in after NBC's broadcast of the 2012 Super Bowl XLVI halftime show that featured rapper M.I.A., who at one point was seen giving the middle finger to the camera. (The FCC has greater regulatory authority over broadcast content than cable.)

Although fewer in volume, the complaints against daily fantasy ads to the FCC mirror the tone of the public criticism on social media, with one viewer in Mission Viejo, Calif., writing, "I am revolted by the amount of advertising for so called 'Fantasy Football' websites such as DraftKings and FanDuel. I thought online gambling in the USA was illegal."

The letter continues: "My wife's father died as a result of the financial stress from gambling. I see the tears well up in her eyes when she sees this blatant and unabashed promotion and glamorization of wagering."

A complaint from a viewer in Union City, New Jersey, read: "... many young children watch these games i think that it is a deeply disturbing message that we are giving them. Ads that promote gambling and the mentality that you can get rich quick by betting on sports events ... please remove them from our televised sporting events!!! I consider it dangerous."