A lobbyist with ties to lobbying group Sports Betting Alliance had communication with Wyoming regulators before some daily fantasy sports operators were ordered to leave the state, documents obtained by LSR indicate.
In February, emails marked “Illegal OSW in Wyoming” with the names and addresses of companies offering pick’em DFS, including Underdog Fantasy and PrizePicks, came to the Wyoming Gaming Commission. Five months later, those companies were mailed cease and desist letters that they say never physically arrived, but later were delivered electronically.
The email came from lobbyist David Picard, who is registered with the Sports Betting Alliance, a national lobbying arm of BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and Fanatics Sportsbook. Picard first registered directly as a representative of DraftKings and FanDuel in 2018, but in 2022, changed that affiliation to SBA. He is president of The Wyoming Group, a Cheyenne-based lobbying outfit.
An SBA spokesperson declined to comment on this story, as did representatives of DraftKings and FanDuel. Picard did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.
Pick’em is player prop parlay betting, lobbyist tells regulator
On February 8, an email Picard sent to Wyoming Supervising Attorney General Mike Kahler was forwarded to Wyoming Gaming Commission Executive Director Charles Moore.
In it, Picard provided a Forbes op-ed titled “More Unlicensed, Domestic Sports Betting Sites Are Operating Under The Guise of Fantasy Sports” and the names of fantasy companies he believed to violating Wyoming law with “the exact proposition parlay bets available on Wyoming’s licensed, regulated sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings.”
“These operators offer player proposition parlay bets as purported ‘fantasy’ contests. In reality, what they offer is indistinguishable from sports wagering,” Picard said in an email to the WGC dated February 8.
Timeline from response to fantasy sports ban letters
The WGC’s first written response recorded in the documents obtained by LSR came on March 28.
“Just an FYI I hope we will have the final draft ready to mail next week. Thanks for your patience. Will keep you posted,” Moore wrote in an email to Picard.
On April 21, Moore followed up:
“Dave, Just an FYI we are close to having this ironed out and the letter ready to send, will keep you in the loop. I know this was what we said a few weeks ago. Sorry for the delay.”
On July 6, Moore sent Picard copies of the letters dated July 5 that the WGC mailed to Underdog and PrizePicks.
Underdog, PrizePicks still operating in Wyoming
Michael Steinberg, a Wyoming Gaming Commission operations manager who oversees sports betting, declined to comment on the emails. He said investigations are still ongoing.
PrizePicks and Underdog still operate in Wyoming. Their deadline to notify the state of their intentions expired two months ago following a brief extension.
“We are working collaboratively with the Wyoming Gaming Commission and remain hopeful that we can come to a resolution that benefits the fantasy sports consumers who enjoy PrizePicks in the state,” a PrizePicks spokesperson said.
“Discussions are continuing with the state and we expect those conversations to continue as we work to address those concerns”, an Underdog spokesperson said.
‘Up to the states’
Meanwhile, Underdog’s founder, Jeremy Levine, has accused DraftKings and FanDuel of lobbying states to take action against his company.
“Their actions have been an open secret,” Levine said in a statement to LSR.
When asked at the recent G2E conference in Las Vegas about DFS pick’em issues, the CEOs of FanDuel and DraftKings both responded with deference to states, beginning with FanDuel CEO Amy Howe.
“There’s a legal regulatory framework and I think it’s up to the state’s to adjudicate this,” Howe said. “I think they will decide whether those offerings are within the legal framework and there’s a clear distinction between games of skill and games of luck, so I think it’s really up to the states to adjudicate them.”
Moderator Contessa Brewer followed up by asking DraftKings CEO Jason Robins about lobbying efforts with regulators.
“I would say it’s more we want to understand what the constraints of what we can offer are. I think the same rules should be applied to everybody,” Robins said, who added later, “What that actual definition [of fantasy sports] is, I agree with Amy, is not up to us to decide.”
States revisit fantasy sports rules after FanDuel lobbyist remarks
A more in-depth comment came from FanDuel head of state government relations Cesar Hernandez at a conference in Denver earlier this summer:
“There are companies today posing as fantasy-sports operators, and they are running illegal sportsbooks,” Fernandez said.
A Wall Street Journal article followed, reporting on the strategy pick ’em operators employ to target users, including in non-legal sports betting states. Since his remarks, eight states have taken action either against or to limit pick’em fantasy sports:
- New York
- North Carolina