Florida Bill Seeks To Clarify Legal Status Of Fantasy Sports

December 13, 2023
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Amid ongoing controversy over pick’em-style fantasy sports contests, a bill pre-filed in the Florida legislature would legalize daily fantasy sports but does not include any proposed tax rate, licensing fee or consumer protections.
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Amid ongoing controversy over pick’em-style fantasy sports contests, a bill pre-filed in the Florida legislature would legalize daily fantasy sports but does not include any proposed tax rate, licensing fee or consumer protections.

The three-page House Bill 679 filed by Republican state Representative Jason Shoaf would define fantasy sports as a contest “in which a participant pays an entry fee and manages a fantasy or simulation sports team composed of athletes from a professional sports organization with the opportunity to win a cash prize.”

All winning outcomes must be determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of more than one individual, while prizes for winning participants must be established and disclosed to contest participants before entry.

Shoaf’s bill also states that all winning outcomes must reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the fantasy sports participant, and all winning outcomes are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of more than one individual.

"The Coalition for Fantasy Sports believes HB 679 will represent a win for fantasy sports fans across the Sunshine State, as it accurately codifies DFS as games of skill which is reflected both federally and in states nationwide,” said Allison Harris, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Fantasy Sports, which represents PrizePicks, Underdog Fantasy and Sleeper.

Schoff’s bill does not include a tax rate, license fee, or additional consumer protections along the lines of those applied in other U.S. states that expressly regulate fantasy sports. If approved, the fantasy sports law would take effect in July 2024.

“We look forward to working with legislators in the upcoming legislative session to protect fantasy sports fans and the games they love,” Harris said in an email.

The 60-day Florida legislative session is scheduled to begin on January 9.

The bill was filed shortly after the Florida Gaming Control Commission sent cease and desist letters to PrizePicks and Underdog that described their fantasy games as online wagers.

Regulators believe those games could violate the state’s gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, which gives the tribe exclusivity for sports betting in the state.

“Your failure to comply will result in the Florida Gaming Control Commission taking any and all appropriate action, including referring this matter to the Attorney General’s Office of state-wide prosecution,” commission executive director Louis Trombetta said in a letter dated September 19 to PrizePicks.

“Under Florida law, betting or wagering on the result of contests of skill, such as sports betting, including fantasy sports betting, is strictly prohibited and constitutes a felony unless such activity is otherwise exempted by statute,” Trombetta wrote.

Trombetta did not respond to a request for comment on whether he has referred this matter to state attorney general Ashley Moody’s office.  

Florida regulators are not alone in questioning the legality of the games.

In early October, the New York State Gaming Commission adopted a set of new regulations to govern daily fantasy sports operations in the state, in accordance with a state law originally passed in 2016. Included in the regulations was a provision that restricts companies from offering pick’em style contests.

Michigan has also adopted a ban on the games, while Massachusetts regulators have also committed to examining the lines between fantasy games and sports betting, and officials in Maine and Wyoming have sent letters of concern to operators regarding pick’em contests.

The California Attorney General’s Office is also preparing a formal opinion regarding the legality of daily fantasy sports in their entirety under state law.

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