Handicapping The New York Daily Fantasy Sports Bills’ Chances Heading Into Homestretch

Posted on June 6, 2016 - Last Updated on June 5, 2016

The legislature in New York has 11 days to get legislation done that would formally legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports. Technically, the important number is only seven — the number of days the legislature is actually still in session between now and when it adjourns on June 16.

If that doesn’t happen, the battle over the legality of DFS would shift back to the courts.

With little time remaining, a number of key questions linger, including:

  • What are the next steps for legislation?
  • What could derail the effort?
  • What are the chances of a bill becoming a law?
  • And what happens if it doesn’t?

On tap for this week for DFS bills

So far, two different pieces of DFS legislation have made it past committee votes in both the Senate and the Assembly.

Both bills came up against some opposition in those hearings, but neither bill was ever in real danger of losing a vote in the gaming committees chaired by Assemblymember Gary Pretlow and Sen. John Bonacic. (They wrote the bills.)

Both bills face committee votes this week:

Once all the appropriate committees have voted on the bills, then they would be up for votes in the full chambers.

But right now, the two bills in play are not identical.

Why two different NY DFS bills?

The simple and superficial answer? Pretlow and Bonacic appear to have different ideas about how to best regulate DFS.

The bills, however, are not drastically different. But that doesn’t mean the differences between them don’t have to be ironed out. If the Assembly passes Pretlow’s bill, and the Senate passes Bonacic’s bill (both as-is) that does not move the legislation to the governor’s desk, simply because they will not have passed the same piece of legislation.

There are options for the NY legislature, among them:

  • Amend one or both bills so they concur before they are passed by the Assembly or Senate, respectively.
  • Pass one or both bills and reach concurrence via a conference committee.
  • Add DFS regulation language to a large omnibus bill (a resolution floated by NPR Buffalo.)

It seems likely that some such reconciliation of the two bills is already under consideration — Bonacic and Pretlow are more than aware of each other’s bills. But the short time frame would seem to present difficulties in reaching consensus.

Good news and bad news for DFS

Without having much insight into any behind-the-scenes maneuvering regarding DFS, there has been plenty of public posturing.

Assembly speaker on board

One very good sign for DFS is that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is seemingly optimistic regarding legislation’s chances.

More from NPR Buffalo:

“I’m not a huge fan of gambling personally, because I do think that it can lead to other ills in society,” said Heastie, who said people gamble anyway, so it’s “important” for New York state to regulate it.

Speaker Heastie says there are differences between the Assembly and the Senate bills that he hopes can be worked out by the end of the session…

Having leadership on board could be a key component to getting a bill through.

Opposition crops up

Those opposing DFS regulation had been fairly quiet until the effort ramped up in the past week or so. But it is has started to make its voice heard.

The standard morality-based arguments are being trotted out, but given the amount of gambling already authorized by the New York government, that doesn’t seem like an argument that will hold water.

More important than that lobbying angle is the casino lobby in New York, which has loudly advocated for having DFS tied to brick-and-mortar licensees in the state. It’s not yet clear whether the New York Gaming Association has enough pull to stop DFS legislation.

But Bonacic said in a hearing last week that “they are putting pressure on every elected official that has a racino in the state of New York.” The casino lobby helped to derail a similar DFS effort in Illinois.

The newest front in battling the DFS bill is where revenue would go. The New York Daily News noted criticism that gambling revenue in the state usually goes to education, but the DFS bills have no such provision. From the NYDN:

“Ten years ago the state committed to fully fund our schools as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court order, but they’ve stiffed our school kids and still owe $4 billion,” said Billy Easton, of the Alliance for Quality Education. “So if anyone is going to put forward a serious plan on daily fantasy sports, show our schools the money and fully fund CFE now.”

What’s the endgame for DFS?

It comes down to this: Passing legislation in any state is rarely easy, and the short timeframe in NY raises the degree of difficulty. Even the top lobbyist for the DFS industry hinted at this idea in a recent story in the Boston Globe.

The amount of time spent on the issue by Bonacic and Pretlow leads one to believe that both think a bill can get to the governor’s desk by the deadline this month.

How and if the finish line will be reached is still an open question. And we also don’t know the thinking of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who in the past has said he would wait to weigh in on a bill until it was on his desk.

If New York doesn’t pass a bill

If the bill doesn’t pass, it’s back to the courts for DFS.

FanDuel and DraftKings reached a settlement with the office of attorney general Eric Schneiderman in March following a months-long legal saga.

The settlement saw the two largest DFS operators stop accepting customers in the state in the hopes of getting a legislative solution worked out.

That settlement will see the matter continue in the courts if a law is not passed, however. An appeals court will consider the cases of the two sites in September, in that eventuality.

That is the last choice of the DFS industry, which will hope it is soon expressly legal in the Empire State before judges have to rule.

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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.

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