Tribal Concerns About DFS Regulation Continue To Be A Variable

Daily Fantasy Sports Bill Reappears In California After Months Of Hibernation

California DFS Bill
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If it seems like a long time ago that the California legislature last considered the topic of daily fantasy sports, that’s because it has been.

DFS appeared to have the momentum of a boulder rolling downhill when a DFS regulatory bill passed the Assembly with just one “no” vote against it in January.

But, it’s been all quiet on the western front, until now, as the bill appears set to awaken from its slumber  five months later.

What’s happening with DFS in California

The DFS bill — A 1437  — has done anything but move quickly in the California Senate. After reaching that chamber in January, it wasn’t even assigned to a committee until May.

But the bill is scheduled to be considered in a Governmental Organization Committee hearing on Tuesday. A vote could be held then.

Earlier, it was amended slightly from the version passed by the Assembly.

Those changes turned it into an “urgency” bill that would take effect immediately if passed. It also outlaws fantasy contests based on amateur sporting events — including college games — a trend that has been repeated in almost every jurisdiction where bills have been considered.

What’s the hold up in the Senate on DFS?

When the Assembly passed the bill, there was no guarantee it would experience the same success and quick passage in the Senate.

But it’s not been clear why the Senate has been slow to take up the issue, other than legislatures often don’t move fast on anything. Here is some of the background and push-pull that could be at play.

Tribal concerns

At least two tribes in the state — the San Manuel and Morongo bands of Mission Indians  voiced concerns regarding DFS.

This is likely not an exhaustive list of tribes that have concerns or outright oppose the bill, however, just the ones that have publicly made their thoughts known. Back in February, other tribes’ stances on DFS was a moving target.

There is also the shadow of ongoing efforts to legalize online poker in the state, which has been contentious between two different coalitions of tribes.

DFS = legal or illegal?

As the two tribes mentioned above pointed out, there is some lingering consternation over the current legality of DFS in the state. It’s an issue that has not yet been addressed by Attorney General Kamala Harris, despite being asked by Assemblymember Marc Levine.

Harris’ silence was mentioned yet again, this time by the Sacramento Bee:

Levine asked Attorney General Kamala Harris to engage in the issue, but unlike attorneys general in other states, who have cracked down on the two big fantasy sports sites, branding them as illegal gambling operations, Harris has remained aloof. She’s running for the U.S. Senate this year and has often shunned involvement in controversial issues, even those involving her agency.

Levine and others have posited that a DFS law would also require a constitutional amendment as an expansion of gambling. That’s a concern that has also come up in New York, where a bill was recently passed by the state legislature.

So what’s next for DFS?

If there really is opposition to the DFS bill from tribes, or an effort to seriously change its language, it may appear in this committee hearing.

There have been rumblings from Sacramento that the DFS bill would be amended to be more like the online poker regulation. To date, however, such language has not surfaced.

There is still plenty of time to get the DFS legislation done — the statehouse isn’t scheduled to adjourn until the end of August. But as we’ve seen in some other states, focus on other issues can result in a mad dash to legalize and regulate DFS at the last-minute.

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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