Florida legislator files bill to legalize DFS. Why?

Florida legislators have continually resisted gambling expansion, but apparently that doesn’t apply to daily fantasy sports.

Once again, a lawmaker has filed a bill to make daily fantasy sports – which involves real money and real athletes in real time – exempt from gambling regulation. Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, filed a bill on Wednesday. No companion bill has yet to be filed in the Florida Senate.

The state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees racetrack gambling, poker, slots and other gambling, would not be privy to regulating DFS, according to the proposed bill.

If this sounds familiar, last year Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, filed similar bills. Nationwide, the American Gaming Association has been pushing legalizing sports betting, an industry much larger than daily fantasy sports. (More people bet on teams than study the nuances required to fill out a DFS lineup, position-by-position.) They haven’t gotten very far in their campaign for U.S. Congress to repeal a 1992 law that prohibits sports gambling, known as PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act).

So why would Florida, which is mired in gambling challenges that range from a current suit that might bring slots to any county that approves a referendum to a recent ruling that voided the Seminole Tribe’s contract with the state, go down this rabbit hole?

Beats me. To me, DFS is closer to gambling that a season-long fantasy sports league. There’s certainly more variance, and more decisions to be made – which tips the scale more toward gambling.

But according to Florida gaming lawyer Daniel Wallach, a partner with Becker & Poliakoff, the “skill” versus “chance” distinction on which the legality of DFS turns in so many states simply does not apply in Florida.

“In Florida,” Wallach notes, “it is illegal to bet or wager on both games of chance and contests of skill. So calling it a ‘contest of skill’ (which is the mantra that the industry uses) does not insulate the games under Florida law because wagering in those types of contests is also illegal.

“In my view, DFS would probably be considered ‘gambling’ under Florida’s broad test,” he added.

Wallach describes the new bill as “a straight-up decriminalization measure that, while not running afoul of PASPA, comes at a potentially heavy cost for consumers—no regulatory oversight, and, even worse, no regulations (unlike in other states).”

The bill, he adds, “just simply removes DFS from the ambit of the state’s gambling laws without providing any consumer protections.”

According to a report by Jim Rosica at FloridaPolitics.com, an “Office of Amusement” would have been established to keep tabs on such operators, but, as Wallach points out, the new bill does not provide for any agency oversight.

Brodeur told Rosica that his bill puts registration requirements, among other provisions, on fantasy operators who have customers here.

“The millions of Floridians who play fantasy games deserve to know that what they’re doing is not a crime,” Brodeur said.

As to that point, I’ll give Wallach the last word: he says that “no fantasy sports player has ever been prosecuted in Florida (or nationally for that matter) simply for competing in a fantasy sports contest, and it is unlikely that any federal or state law enforcement agency would target players for prosecution even if the law were to remain unchanged.”

Thoughts? Email NickSortal@BellSouth.net or via @NickSortal on Twitter