Andy Gardiner hates technology

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting with Andy Gardiner at his home, but, based on his tenure as president of the Florida Senate, I have to wonder if his house has working electricity, much less cable or WiFi.

That’s because Gardiner hates technology.

To employ one of Daniel Ruth’s gimmicks, Gardiner apparently represents the district of Luddite.

For the last two years, Gardiner has been the chief obstacle to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft getting a fair shake from the Legislature. He’s also been a quiet opponent of travel service AirBnB.

Gardiner’s been such an opponent of anything cutting-edge, I’m surprised he’s not burning copies of Vanity Fair’s New Establishment issue.

Gardiner’s latest assault on the freedom of technology is his targeting of daily fantasy sports websites like DraftKings and FanDuel.

The sites work like this: Instead of selecting players for an entire season like traditional fantasy sports, DFS matches require a person to pick a lineup for a single night (or week as in the case of pro football), while staying under a salary cap. Participants can play one-on-one battles with their friends for free or a set fee, or join a one-day league with the winner taking all.

To Gardiner, DraftKings and FanDuel are gambling, despite what federal law says.

Daily fantasy sports and its defenders point to a 2006 law, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, that carved out a specific exemption for “fantasy sports” well before the concept of daily games versus week-long or season-long were contemplated. Before the rise of daily fantasy sports, the exception was mostly used by top season-long fantasy operators like Yahoo and CBS Sports.

That’s not good enough for Gardiner, who is positioning himself on the opposite side of millions of Floridians (including the many Florida lawmakers who partake in fantasy sports).

“I have asked staff to kind of start the process of researching as much as we possibly can,” Gardiner told the News Service of Florida on Wednesday. “I would remind you we ran the Internet cafes out of the state of Florida because they were outlawed and they were bad. You have the Nevada Gaming Commission saying that FanDuel and DraftKings are gaming and gambling. So we have an obligation, if we’re going to be consistent, that we need to look at them, and, if it is gaming, then we need to react to it.”

By the way, how ironic is it that Gardiner, the defender of all things family-friendly, is now doing the handiwork of the Nevada gambling interests who view the daily sports fantasy companies as a direct threat to their business? Who could have ever guessed that Gardiner would be on the same side of a gaming issue as Sheldon Adelson?

Gardiner is probably right to craft regulations that protect Florida consumers. Lobbyists for the industry concede that.

“I think you’ll see legislation soon that talks about regulation and talks about consumer protections and really enhances the rights of players but also protects them from any problems that would treat them unfairly,” said Brian Ballard, who represents DraftKings, FanDuel and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. “I’m hopeful that we’ll see a mix of keeping what’s legal, legal, while protecting players’ consumer rights first and foremost.”

What Gardiner is not right about is burying his head in the sand every time a new technology comes along that disrupts the status quo.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.