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Don’t throw the daily sports fantasy baby out with the bathwater

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

You cannot turn on the television without seeing an ad for daily fantasy sports players DraftKings or FanDuel. That’s because the interest in daily fantasy sports is at stratospheric levels.

Fantasy sports is as popular as Buffalo wings and cold beer. A report in Fortune shows that 57 million North Americans are betting $465 a year on fantasy sports, making it a $27 billion business.

DraftKings, based out of Boston, and FanDuel, operating from New York, are the largest single-day fantasy sports websites. Their websites 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.

Think wagering $20 to win $1 million by picking a winning combination of NFL players for a fantasy team this Sunday is gambling? The league says it isn’t.

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 weeklong 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.

An act of Congress has not kept regulators in Nevada and a hyperbolic attorney general in New York from trying to shut down FanDuel, DraftKings and other DFS sites.

“It is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman when announcing he was sending cease-and-desist orders to DFS operators.

Fortunately in Florida, state lawmakers are not buying into the Yankee way.

Several powerful legislators, including the Senate President-Designate Joe Negron, have proposed sensible legislation that would put smart restrictions on DFS companies.

According to the bill’s language, game operators must register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and pay related fees. The state would also require them to “implement certain procedures” that would prevent certain people from playing fantasy games, as well as restrict some information from being shared with third parties. In addition, the bill would make fantasy draft websites provide age verification for its players.

For their part, DraftKings, FanDuel and other DFS operators welcome the regulation — so long as they aren’t lumped in with the gambling industry.

Negron’s legislation — sponsored in the House by Rep. Matt Gaetz, while drawing bipartisan support from incoming Democratic leaders Sen. Oscar Braynon and Rep. Janet Cruz — is the right way to address an issue that enjoys broad support from Floridians.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

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.

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