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Fantasy sports bill filed again in Legislature

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A bill to exempt fantasy sports play from state gambling regulation has again been filed in the Florida Legislature.

State Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican, filed a measure (HB 149) on Wednesday.

The bill would clarify that fantasy contests “reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants” and are not games of chance – and thus potentially illegal gambling.

The legislation specifically includes games based on “athletes in the case of sports events.” It doesn’t yet have a Senate companion.

It would exempt “fantasy contests” from regulation by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees gambling in the state.

Last year, state Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, and state Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, unsuccessfully tried to move similar bills. Negron is now Senate President and Gaetz was elected to Congress.

The efforts, however, got caught up in a late session meltdown over a renewed blackjack agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and connected bills that would have expanded gambling in the state.

Negron’s measure would have declared fantasy sports play, such as on websites like FanDuel and DraftKings, “games of skill” and not gambling. He also would have established a state “Office of Amusement” to keep tabs on such operators.

Gaetz’s bill similarly would have regulated fantasy sports by putting registration requirements, among other provisions, on fantasy operators who have customers here.

The fact that their attempts didn’t move motivated Brodeur to file his own bill this year, he said in a phone interview.

“The question was never answered,” he said. “The millions of Floridians who play fantasy games deserve to know that what they’re doing is not a crime.”

Brodeur added he’s dabbled in pro football fantasy leagues over the last couple of years but “not enough that I would call myself skillful at it.”

Marc La Vorgna, spokesman for DraftKings and FanDuel, said the companies “look forward to working with Rep. Brodeur during the upcoming legislative session and, on behalf of the 3 million Floridians who love fantasy sports and want to keep their favorite pastime legal, we thank him for his support of fantasy sports.”

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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