Daily Fantasy Sports have been a highly contested topic of discussion for some years. Some believe that it is a form of gambling and should be banned. Others believe that it is a game of skill and a viable form of entertainment. Everyone agrees that it needs to be regulated.
That being said, only 11 states have come out with legislation that legalizes and regulates the activity. Two of those – Mississippi and Arkansas – only doing so in the last few weeks. With the majority of the country still figuring out what to do about DFS, this next month will be extremely important.
Daily Fantasy sports sit in a gray area where most states are concerned. As of now, any state that hasn’t legalized it has the ability to kick them out of the state at a moment’s notice. Some states, like Idaho, have done just that, forcing paid daily fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel to vacate the state. Others, like Texas and Georgia, have had their Attorneys General issue statements as to what the stance is on DFS, but haven’t taken any action against the sites yet.
As we begin the month of May, five states with DFS bills will close out their session by the end of this month, including Florida and Texas. With just a few weeks left to pass the legislation, many are wondering what will happen. Some of these states are incredibly influential, and their actions can certainly have an effect on what happens with DFS in other states.
Florida and Daily Fantasy Sports
Florida is by far the most influential state in all of this. They’ve got multiple bills on the floor at the moment, some of which encompass gambling as a whole and a couple that are stand-alone bills specifically about DFS. But as of May 2nd, it appears that they will not be joining the ranks of states with legalized DFS.
Legislators have been dragging their feet when it comes to expanding gambling in the state, leaving bills that would effectively expand the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact with the state dead in committees the last few sessions. This year seems to be no different, unfortunately, as negotiators from both sides couldn’t come to an agreement, effectively killing the bill.
Vice Chair Jose Felix Diaz and Chair Bill Galvano of the Conference Committee On Gaming issued this statement:
“Notwithstanding the significant progress made this session and in the Conference Committee on Gaming, we have reached a point where we do not believe that a gaming bill…can be achieved before the Legislature’s scheduled adjournment sine die.”
They proceeded to request that their committee be dissolved, killing any chance the bill had left. This overarching piece of legislature would have contained verbiage to legalize and regulate DFS if it had come to pass. Florida’s legislative session for 2017 ends on May 5th, and although there are still several stand-alone DFS bills, there’s almost no chance for them to be passed.
Texas and Daily Fantasy Sports
In 2016, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement that sent DFS in Texas in a tailspin. The statement said that under current laws for sports betting in California, bets on a part of the game as well as on the game as a whole constitute gambling and that “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.”
This opinion caused FanDuel to vacate the state, while DraftKings maintained that what they offered was not gambling and proceeded to dig their feet in and continue to operate in the state. With so much confusion surrounding the topic, Representative Richard Raymond introduced a number of bills (HB 1457, HB 1422, and HB 1418) to legalize DFS in the state. Cosponsors on these bills include Republicans and Democrats.
While it is encouraging to see bills that are supported on both sides of the line, the fight against DFS is mainly coming from the Republican Party – who are currently fighting amongst themselves over whether or not this can be considered a form of sports betting. Conservative lawmakers in the state have long been opponents of legal gambling, due in large part to the strong anti-gambling lobbies that back their campaigns.
Aside from being one of the largest anti-gambling states in the country, Texas is a hard hill to hurdle because of one very annoying fact – Their legislative session only meets once every two years. That means if this bill is not passed in this session, residents won’t have a solid legislative leg to stand on either way until 2019.
Session ends on May 29th. Texas’ DFS bills have made it through their committees in the House. Pending a vote, they will move over to the Senate for revision and another vote. These bills still have a long way to go, but they’ve got the time to get there.
Daily Fantasy Sports In Other States
In addition to these two heavy hitters, Alabama, Illinois, and Vermont also have bills on the floor that will be decided on one way or another by the end of May. Illinois has a few bills working their way through committees right now, and Vermont has just passed a daily fantasy sports bill through their Senate. Both states are small but would be good for the morale of proponents for the DFS movement.
Alabama is another state that has been pushing hard for DFS over the past year. In late April, the House squeaked a DFS bill through. The debate over this bill, HB 354, was contentious at best and took over two hours to complete. The bill was passed by five votes, and now awaits an introduction to the Senate.
As one of the few states that has been unwaveringly against any form of gambling whatsoever, Alabama’s ability to pass through a DFS bill that just last year couldn’t even make it out of house committees shows that the overall attitude in the country towards sports betting is changing.
The best part about Alabama’s DFS bill didn’t come from the fact that it made its way through the House, which is great, don’t get me wrong. No, the best part came when one Representative broke down and infamously called out his fellow representatives.
“I was just sitting here thinking, what big hypocrites we have here in the state legislature, concerning gambling here.” Representative Alvin Holmes stood before his colleagues and proceeded to claim that he knew which of his coworkers were anti-gambling but were betting with bookies any given Saturday on an Alabama or Auburn game. “You know they bet on Alabama football games, don’t you?” he asked of the Chair.
While the statement from Rep. Holmes was quite funny and worked well to break through some of the tension in the room, he also had a good point. It doesn’t matter if paid Daily Fantasy Sports is considered gambling or not. Alabama residents are going to do it. And the same goes for sports betting.
The forward movement of DFS bills throughout the US and the very publicly changed opinions of state legislators as well as professional commissioners is creating a clearer and clearer picture every day – people want sports betting in the US. They want it legalized, regulated, and readily available as soon as possible. For now, DFS will have to do. But if these lawmakers have anything to say about it, eventually we might start seeing sports betting bills will be making its way through state legislatures just as quickly as these DFS bills.