Fantasy Sports-Friendly Draft Bill Filed in Florida

Two Florida state legislators have filed a draft of a bill that aims to regulate fantasy sports in the Sunshine State. Unlike some lawmakers around the country State Senator Joe Negron and Representative Matt Gaetz do not want to ban the industry from the state, but rather prefer to simply make sure rules and consumer protections are in place.

The bill defines a legal “fantasy game” using almost exactly the same language as is found in the fantasy sports carve-out in the UIGEA:

(a) The value of all prizes and awards offered to winning game participants are established and made known to the game participants in advance of the fantasy.
(b) All winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the game participants and shall be determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of individuals, including athletes in the case of sporting events.
(c) No winning outcome is based on the score, point spread, or any performance or performances of any single team or combination of such teams or solely on any single performance of an individual athlete or player in any single event.

It also addresses various player protections, including:

•    Fantasy operator employees and relatives of the operator in their household may not play in games with a cash prize that is more than five dollars.
•    Game operators (presumably the person who runs the company, as opposed to an employee) may not play in their own contest.
•    Information that may affect game play may not be shared with third parties until it is made publicly available.

florida postcardThe sites must also be able to verify if a player is at least 18-years old, prevent athletes and officials from real-world games that are used in fantasy sports from participating in the fantasy contests, allow customers to self-restrict, and must segregate player funds from operating funds.

The bill sets the initial registration fee for a game operator at $500,000 with an annual renewal fee of $100,000. No additional taxes are laid out. For licensing purposes, an operator is defined as someone who offers fantasy games for a cash prize to more than 750 people.

Interestingly, unlike what we’re seeing with online poker and may see with DFS, this bill does not restrict fantasy sports operators to only accepting customers from Florida. They can include players from anywhere; they just have to abide by the bill’s regulations in order to operate in Florida.

A press release was also released in conjunction with the draft legislation:

“Currently, 3 million Floridians participate in fantasy sports contests, from traditional leagues with friends or coworkers, to the newer, daily fantasy sports contests,” said Senator Negron.  “I do not believe that these Floridians should be at risk of criminal prosecution for doing nothing more than participating in the fantasy sports contests they enjoy.  However, due to a dated Attorney General opinion, there is a need to clarify in Florida law that fantasy sports are legal, as well as institute commonsense regulations that address consumers. I believe this legislation will do just that.”

“Government should have little to no involvement in the recreational daily lives of Floridians,” said Representative Gaetz.  “I have played fantasy football since I was a freshman in high school, and I have never felt the need for protection from the government.  Unfortunately, we have some ambitious prosecutors who want to make criminals out of the 3 million Floridians who play fantasy football, which makes this legislation necessary.”

This is one of the most reasonable approaches to fantasy sports, daily or otherwise, that anyone with any influence in government has had recently. While other legislators, attorneys general, and gaming commissions argue about whether or not fantasy sports is gambling, Sen. Negron and Rep. Gaetz seem to see that as an irrelevant discussion. Instead, they just want Floridians to be able to continue playing fantasy sports online and feel setting up logical regulations that are strict but not stifling is the way to go.

Contrast this to New York, where the state’s Attorney General Eric Scheiderman recently came out strongly against daily fantasy sports after a month-long investigation:

Our investigation has found that, unlike traditional fantasy sports, daily fantasy sports companies are engaged in illegal gambling under New York law, causing the same kinds of social and economic harms as other forms of illegal gambling, and misleading New York consumers. Daily fantasy sports is neither victimless nor harmless, and it is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multi-billion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country. Today we have sent a clear message: not in New York, and not on my watch.

Yikes. Congratulations on making Florida look like the sensible state.

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