Florida Set to Legalize Fantasy Sports

The legal debate surrounding daily fantasy sports rages on, with a newly proposed bill in Florida. Republican state Senator Joe Negron and Representative Matt Gaetz are introducing a daily fantasy sports bill in Florida, which would make daily fantasy sports legal in the state.

“Currently, 3 million Floridians participate in fantasy sports contests, from traditional leagues with friends or coworkers, to the newer, daily fantasy sports contests,” Negron said. “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.”

Proposed law is very friendly to the fantasy sports industry

It is important to note, however, that there are no reports that daily fantasy sports users are currently in any danger of criminal charges. That said, the proposed legislation would clarify that daily fantasy sports are completely legal in the state, and provide some restrictions and regulation on the industry.

“Government should have little to no involvement in 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.”

The proposed Florida law is quite similar to a bill recently presented in the Illinois state legislature, which critics have called very friendly to the daily fantasy sports industry.

Daily fantasy sports companies, most notably Draft Kings and Fan Duel, have sprung up in the past few years and have exploded in popularity and wealth other the past year. As John Oliver notes in the latest episode of his HBO show Last Week Tonight, you’ve more than likely seen one of their ads if you so much as own a television, as the two companies combined were airing TV ads every 90 seconds according to an October report from Wired.

John Oliver sketch

The appeal of daily fantasy leagues is their low amount of commitment and, for the purposes of making money, the payouts come much more often than traditional leagues. In the past, playing fantasy sports meant drafting a team of real athletes and sticking with the same athletes for an entire sports season. However, daily fantasy leagues allow users to draft a new team every week, or even every single day for singular competitions.

The legal issues surrounding daily fantasy sports largely relates to the gray area of classifying these competitions as gambling or a game of skill.

On the one side, there are those who claim that betting money on the outcome of sporting events, something that is largely left up to the “chance” of a good performance by a professional athlete, is pure and simple gambling. On the other hand, there are those who point to the hardcore fantasy sports players who create intricate spreadsheets to dominate the game as clear examples of the ability to game the system, making it a game of skill.

Regardless of how you feel about daily fantasy sports, it seems that our thoughtful yet plodding legal system will not come to a clear decision anytime soon. Until then, you’ll have to come to your own conclusion on the morality of daily fantasy sports—the legality will come later.