Fantasy sports bills keep lawmakers busy
February 29, 2016 11:50 AM
by Phil Hevener
Daily fantasy sports bills are getting legislative attention nationwide as lawmakers debate plans that could open a pipeline to new tax revenue and create the mindset that could lead to the sports betting that is now available only in Nevada.
Proponents – some of them – insist the daily fantasy sports business is a game of skill and should not be considered gambling. Other believers tend to roll their eyes and say, who are you kidding, it’s gambling, but let’s just legalize it.
“We’ve been operating in this gray area for a long time, and, up until now, it hasn’t really been a problem,” says Peter Schoenke, chairman of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, which hired about 65 lobbying firms in 44 states to push bills favorable to the industry. “What we want to do in all of these states is to clarify that it is legal.”
A 2006 federal law banned online gambling but specifically exempted fantasy sports, paving the way for the creation of the niche industry that’s since exploded in popularity, prompting policymakers to take a closer look.
Companies like Boston’s DraftKings and New York’s FanDuel have argued their contests aren’t gambling because the games require more skill than luck. But where it once shied away from heavy oversight, the industry is now embracing limited regulation, so long as it isn’t subjected to the same exacting standards as traditional gambling operations.
“The laws of skill gaming and gambling were written like a hundred years ago and they don’t really fit fantasy sports,” Schoenke says.
This year’s tally of 30 states with pending bills is up from roughly 16 states last year and two in 2014, according to GamblingCompliance Research Services, which has been tracking the legislation.
At least half the bills represent variations of an industry-backed proposal exempting the games from state gambling regulations and imposing requirements meant to protect consumers, according to an Associated Press review.
Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: PhilHevener@GamingToday.com.