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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Proposal to legalize fantasy sports hits another obstacle

4

March

A last-ditch proposal to legalize daily fantasy sports games in Florida hit another major obstacle that may kill the idea for good in 2016.

Just moments before the Florida House was about to vote on a proposal from State Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, to allow companies like DraftKings and FanDuel to operate in Florida, he pulled the idea from consideration. Gaetz's action came moments after a lead negotiator on the state's gaming agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida warned the House that allowing Gaetz's legislation could have broad effects on state gambling policies.

Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, said if the courts were to rule that daily fantasy sports games are a form of gambling, it would open the door for the tribe to be able to offer new online gambling options in Florida, which are now prohibited.

"The Seminoles would be able to do online gaming such as black jack and poker," Diaz said. "There would be internet gaming in Florida."

After other House members took to the floor to express similar concerns that it could expand gaming in Florida, Gaetz announced he was pulling his proposal before a vote.

Gaetz said he was convinced after hearing Diaz's debate that he should pull his bill out of concern it could affect the state's gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. Gaetz said it was a "risk we should not take."

Gaetz was trying to include his idea in the form of an amendment onto a another bill that was about repealing other regulations managed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Those regulations were about rules for architects, ship brokers and burglar alarm salesman. 

Gaetz's failed attempt to amend the new bill comes as his stand-alone bill on daily fantasy sports contests stalled in the House Regulatory Affairs Committee. It was never voted on in that committee, forcing Gaetz to find other ways to get his proposal heard.

As daily fantasy sports games have proliferated, so has government reactions. Several states, including Texas, New York and more recently Georgia, have issued opinions that daily fantasy sports games are forms of gambling that may be prohibited in their states. Nevada and a half dozen other states already ban people from participating in the games. Florida's laws have been hard to interpret. While some companies offer the games, others like Yahoo have refused to allow it.

Gaetz said his legislation is needed to assure Floridians are not turned into criminals for participating in fantasy sports games.

The bills unlikely passage is a blow for the daily fantasy sports industry that has spent more than $220,000 on campaign donations to key state legislators over the last six months and hired a stable of some of Tallahassee's top lobbyists. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association donated $175,000 to lawmakers. FanDuel has donated $26,500. And DraftKings has donated $20,000.

 

[Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2016 6:32pm]

    

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