Tony Romo Pitches Fantasy Sports to Texas Lawmakers
Recently retired National Football League (NFL) star Tony Romo has been going to bat for daily fantasy sports in Texas recently, trying to convince state legislators to legalize the games in the Lone Star State. Romo, who played quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys for thirteen years – and was the starter for most of them – was honored this past week by the Texas legislature via a ceremonial resolution. While he was in town, Romo also held meetings with a number of lawmakers about fantasy sports.
Tony Romo has an interesting history with fantasy sports. All athletes are fully aware of fantasy sports, both of the season-long and daily varieties. Some play fantasy themselves, others think it’s stupid, and others are accepting and neutral. Romo, for his part, is a huge proponent of fantasy football. In 2015, he announced that he would be hosting the National Fantasy Football Convention (NFFC) at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.
A press release at the time described the NFFC:
The National Fantasy Football Convention is a groundbreaking, interactive, and entertaining series of events, exhibits, and opportunities designed entirely for fantasy football fans nationwide, uniting fans with their passions at an unprecedented scale and scope.
In its inaugural season, the National Fantasy Football Convention will feature over one hundred active NFL players participating in a wide range of events, Q&As, autograph signings, parties, sessions, exhibits, and more.
“Fans have never been closer to the game, and a lot of my buddies already see themselves as an owner or GM, and now fans finally have the chance to interact with all their favorite players and experts,” Romo said.
The NFL, though, hypocritical as always when it comes to gambling, frowned upon the event being held at a casino, even though it was not held at a casino, but rather a facility connected to a casino.
A league spokesman told media outlets that there was a league policy which stated that “players and NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos.”
But it wasn’t just the NFL citing the policy that pissed off Romo and the NFFC. It was that the NFL, rather than just talking to Romo and his NFFC partners about it, did an end-around to try to get the whole thing to fail.
“The NFL never called me or my agency or the NFFC,” Romo told former ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd. “They just went about the process of communicating to the players and the NFLPA. I think when that takes shape I think you understand that the NFL was really trying to not necessarily cancel the event. I think more than that they were trying to probably persuade people not to attend the event.”
FoxSports.com’s Alex Marvez was told something similar, reporting, “A source connected with the National Fantasy Football Convention told FOX Sports that NFL representatives were calling players and even the parents of some players threatening that participants could be suspended. An NFL spokesman denied that has happened.”
The NFFC tried to get the event going in 2016, this time in Los Angeles, but once again, it appears the NFL put the kibosh on it. The NFFC sent letters to the event’s sponsors, blaming “blatant and continued interference” from the NFL.
The NFFC sued the NFL for the 2015 issue, though that went nowhere. It did so once again for the alleged 2016 meddling and that lawsuit is actually going to trial in November.
Another NFFC has been scheduled for Dallas in July of this year.
Meanwhile, as mentioned, Tony Romo was trying to drum up support for fantasy sports in Texas in recent days. The Dallas Morning News reported that a House DFS legalization bill has “stalled in the House Calendars Committee,” but since that bill’s sponsor, Richard Raymond, is also the sponsor of the resolution that honored Romo, perhaps Romo’s sweet talking can get something going.
There is also a DFS bill in the Senate.
At the beginning of last year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled that DFS amounts to illegal gambling. He summed up his decision as follows:
Under section 47.02 of the Penal Code, a person commits an offense if he or she makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest. Because the outcome of games in daily fantasy sports leagues depends partially on chance, an individual’s payment of a fee to participate in such activities is a bet. Accordingly, a court would likely determine that participation in daily fantasy sports leagues is illegal gambling ‘under section 47.02 of the Penal Code.
Obviously DraftKings (of which Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has an equity stake) and FanDuel disagreed with the decision, but FanDuel did eventually decide to exit the Texas market. DraftKings still operates there.