Florida is one of a large swath of states where lawmakers introduced daily fantasy sports legislation that didn’t become law in 2016. Eight states did move to legalize DFS last year.
In 2017, Florida will likely be one of the states the DFS industry focuses on most in its quest for legal clarity around the US. A new bill signals the start of that effort.
The new Florida fantasy sports bill
The bill clarifies the legality of DFS only, and does not regulate the industry in Florida.
The bill is just two pages. It defines a “fantasy contest” and a “fantasy contest operator,” much like it is defined in the federal UIGEA and a host of state laws. Then the bill goes on to say contests and operators are not subject to regulation and are exempt from several parts of the state code, mostly pertaining to gambling and games of skill:
EXEMPTION.—A fantasy contest conducted by a fantasy 35 contest operator is not subject to regulation by the Department 36 of Business and Professional Regulation and is not subject to s. 37 849.01, s. 849.08, s. 849.09, s. 849.11, s. 849.14, or s. 38 849.25.
Brodeur told Florida Politics that he wants to clarify whether DFS is legal in the state:
“The question was never answered,” he said. “The millions of Floridians who play fantasy games deserve to know that what they’re doing is not a crime.”
If at first you don’t succeed….
Legislation last year also sought to regulate the industry, however. It’s not clear why the DFS effort this year is starting without a regulatory component.
Like legislation anywhere, it’s very easy to introduce a bill. Moving it forward is an entirely different matter. Seeing as a bill that regulated DFS received pushback in 2016, a bill that provides no oversight would seem to have an even more uncertain future.
The other moving parts in Florida
There are lots of things to consider in Florida regarding DFS, outside of the bill itself:
- Attorney General Pam Bondi could be headed to a job in the Trump administration. She has continually stayed away from the issue of DFS, despite the fact that an old AG opinion would appear to be applicable to the DFS industry. A new AG could mean an actual opinion on DFS from that office.
- According to some legal experts, current law in Florida creates a gray area for DFS.
- The status of a federal investigation that emanated from Florida is unknown.
- The Seminole tribe, which has a gambling compact with the state, has set itself up as an opponent of DFS in the past.
It the bill does pass, it would be open season in Florida
The wording of the DFS bill in Florida is such that it would authorize things more akin to sports betting than most of the DFS industry as currently situated.
So far, similar language in other states has not been leveraged by an operator to offer what amounts to prop bets based on player performances under a DFS law. But such a development would seem to be just a matter of time, not a matter of “if.”
A large state that legalizes such activity for operators — with no regulation and no barrier to entry — would seem to be a good entry point.