Not too long ago, it seemed sports fans in the Tri-State Area couldn’t watch a game or tune in to their favorite radio talk shows without being barraged by ads urging them to participate in daily fantasy sports contests.
But, as so often happens when any activity attracts an immense following, government officials began to take notice. Much debate ensued about the legitimacy of the contests — and whether winning them requires luck or skill. A whole bunch of proverbial poop really hit the fan back in November, when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said participation in the contests is tantamount to illegal gambling in the state.
While Schneiderman’s stance — aimed at preventing the companies that run the contests from doing business with state residents — set the stage for a legal showdown, lawmakers in a neighboring state are considering a different approach. Specifically, a bill currently making its way through Connecticut’s legislative process would “protect consumers who play daily fantasy sports contests from unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”
Not a chance
Among other things, the bill includes definitions of a “daily fantasy sports contest,” and a “contest of chance.” It also charges the Commissioner of Consumer Protection with adopting rules that:
- Stipulate that daily fantasy sports contests are not “contests of chance”
- Set the minimum age for participants at 21
- Include measures to protect consumer deposits
- Ensure “truthful advertising” regarding the activity
- Guarantee “the integrity of all daily fantasy sports contests offered in this state”
- Include safeguards for “problem gamblers”
At a public hearing of the General Law Committee held earlier this month, several speakers voiced concerns and suggested changes to the initial language.
One of them, Chris Grimm, testified on behalf of two well-known fantasy sports companies and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. He began by pointing out that more than 50 million Americans have played fantasy sports for more than three decades, making the activity “our new national past time [sic].”
Whether they play in the traditional season-long format or the newer daily or weekly format, participants put their skills to the test, Grimm stressed.
“It is not enough to know the most popular teams and their most recognizable stars,” Grimm said. “Fantasy players need to understand scoring systems, the particular strengths of different players, the type of offensive schemes that they play in and the quality of their matchups [sic].”
Sarah Koch, the assistant director of government affairs at Draft Kings, also spoke in favor of the bill, but suggested some changes including:
- Writing certain protections into the law itself
- Insertion of language that “ensures fantasy sports competitions are based solely on statistics and not on outcome or finishing position” to avoid inadvertently “opening the door to sports betting”
- Removing the word “daily” from the definition of fantasy sports in the bill to “provide legal clarity for all fantasy sports encompassed by the definition”
- Clarification of the legal status of fantasy contests by inserting language indicating it does not “constitute gambling under the applicable penal code”
- Dropping the age restriction from 21 to 18
Tamara Petro, the executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, also addressed the committee.
“This bill largely represents preparedness for a substantial expansion if CT [sic] legalizes daily fantasy sports, which is a very lucrative, multi-billion dollar business,” she said. “We propose that the new era of gambling in CT [sic] necessitates a sustainable framework for Responsible Gambling [sic] and consumer protections, and that the State [sic] has a responsibility to provide this while looking to expanded gambling for revenue.”