Two Bills, One Hearing Are Moving Pieces For DFS Effort In PA

Can Pennsylvania Get Daily Fantasy Sports Regulation Done With Time Running Out In 2016?

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Pennsylvania has made a lot of progress on legislation that would clearly legalize and also regulate daily fantasy sports in 2016.

But whether the Keystone State follows through on the legwork done to date remains in question with little time left for the legislature to act.

On tap this week for PA and DFS

There is no shortage of chatter in Pennsylvania regarding fantasy sports this week. That includes two active bills and a planned hearing:

  • S 1324 is out of committee and onto the Senate floor. The fantasy sports-only bill could see a vote by the full Senate as soon as tomorrow.
  • H 2150 — a larger gambling expansion package that also includes fantasy sports regulation — has not seen any action in several months. But it has passed the House, and could be taken up by the Senate.
  • The House Gaming Oversight Committee is holding a hearing on Wednesday that will deal with online gambling and DFS.

Pennsylvania’s Senate has just six scheduled days in session before the November elections. What it plans to do when it comes to DFS and online gambling remains a mystery.

More on what we’ll see at the hearing

What the committee hopes to accomplish with the hearing isn’t clear; the House, after all, has already passed its DFS/gambling package. The hearing has a subject of “Update on I-Gaming and Fantasy Sports.”

Who will appear at the hearing?

Rep. John Payne, who chairs the committee, recently said he believes there’s a 50-50 chance that the Senate will act on online gambling this year; that likely means DFS, as well. It’s possible the hearing is an attempt to put the issue in the spotlight, and spur the Senate to action.

Can DFS go its own route?

While the Senate DFS bill has gained a bit of traction in recent weeks, the House has shown little desire to decouple any portion of the gambling expansion from the larger package (even if DFS isn’t really treated like gambling in the bill).

The Senate has obviously been tentative to deal with the House-backed gambling plan, based on its inaction. It’s also not clear if the House would be interested in taking action on DFS without online gambling being coupled to it. But if the Senate does vote on and pass S 1324, we’ll find out if there is any momentum for the House to act on DFS only.

To date, almost every bill in the states dealing with DFS has been a standalone effort. The lone exception has come in Massachusetts, where legalization of paid-entry fantasy contests came in the context of a larger economic development package.

Other considerations for DFS in PA

Getting regulation done in Pennsylvania may not seem like a front-burner issue for the DFS industry on the surface. Almost all DFS operators, including DraftKings and FanDuel, accept users in the state. There have never been any real concerns about the legality of DFS in the commonwealth.

That doesn’t mean that it can’t come up, however. There have been plenty of states where the DFS industry believed it was acting within the law, but its legal status was questioned by an attorney general. The possibility of that happening in Pennsylvania was recently raised by Rep. Rosita Youngblood, one of the gambling expansion’s sponsors:

Not to mention we will have a brand new attorney general, and it is not clear where they would stand on the legality of daily fantasy sports in the Commonwealth. There is a lot at stake by waiting.

By legislation passing in PA, DFS would gain legal clarity in another one of the largest states in the US, joining New York. Efforts in other large states — like California and Illinois — were derailed this year. The industry would like to keep racking up legislative victories while the iron is hot, and Pennsylvania remains a good possibility to do so.

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.