Legal Sports Report

Florida Gambling Bill Dies, Likely Scuttling Chances Of Fantasy Sports Legalization

Florida daily fantasy sports
It does not appear that DraftKings, FanDuel and the rest of the daily fantasy sports industry is going to gain legal clarity in Florida this legislative session, barring a late Hail Mary.

The apparent setback comes at the start of an important month for DFS in statehouses around the country.

The latest on Florida and DFS

Florida Politics reported that hopes of passing an over-arching gambling package are dead for the current legislative session. The package that had been advancing included language that would have legalized and regulated DFS in the state.

There are still two standalone fantasy sports bills in play, but it’s not clear either of them will reach the finish line, given the insistence to date of putting DFS in a larger gaming bill. A House bill had advanced through some committee hearings, but it still has not won full approval from either chamber.

However, time is very short for either bill to advance through a number of steps to passage. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn this week.

Why Florida is so important

Florida was an early focus for the DFS industry, with legislation first cropping up in 2015.

While most daily fantasy operators serve the state, there are varying opinions about the legality of DFS there. (Yahoo daily fantasy is the largest operator that had pulled out of the state.)

The document that most point to is an old attorney general’s opinion from 1991. That opinion states that fantasy sports contest operators that charge a fee operate in violation of state gambling laws.

That opinion has not been updated by the current AG, Pam Bondi. Nor direct legal action has emanated from Florida.

Still, operating in Florida with that AG opinion hanging over the industry is less than ideal.

What’s next for Florida and DFS?

To date, as the gambling package goes, so goes DFS. It had appeared the House and Senate were on the same page on DFS, before the entire gaming package fell apart.

It’s not clear the will to pass DFS legislation on its own exists, given all the moving parts — including the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

Last year saw several late efforts by the DFS industry to put legalization language in other bills in Florida. But for now, the prospects of DFS being legal in Florida beyond a shadow of a doubt appear to be on life support.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.