Underdog, PrizePicks To Pull Out Of Florida Under Regulator Pressure

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Daily fantasy sports pick’em operators plan to leave Florida by March 1 while they consider a court response to multiple state orders to leave, multiple sources told LSR.

It comes after Florida regulators sent a second round of cease and desist letters in January, promising no further legal action against Betr, PrizePicks and Underdog Fantasy should they leave the state by that date.

“If the cessation is completed within that timeframe, the Commission will deem the company and all its officials, directors and employees to have complied with the demands of the cease-and-desit order, and the Commission will not take further action, including referral to the Office of Statewide Prosecution or to any State Attorney,” the letters read in part.

Florida fantasy sports exit plans

Two sources told LSR that at least one of, if not all three, plan to comply. A third source said it was multiple pick’em operators, which could mean all three. A fourth source confirmed Underdog specifically will leave Florida.

“We can confirm that we have reached a negotiated resolution with the FGCC to cease operating our current contests on March 1st,” a PrizePicks spokesperson said in a statement. “That resolution, however, makes very clear that we are welcome to operate in the state in the future and we will provide additional details on go-forward operations in due course.”

Betr CEO Joey Levy did not respond to a text message seeking comment on the status of its pick’em operation in the Sunshine State.  Underdog Fantasy declined to comment.

“The Coalition for Fantasy Sports is committed to ensuring its member companies remain in the state and is actively engaging with Florida policymakers to protect the ability of fantasy sports fans to engage in the games of skill they enjoy,” a spokesperson with the Coalition for Fantasy Sports, a trade group representing the companies said in an emailed statement.

How fantasy sports in Florida got here

Florida regulators sent a first round of letters to each DFS operator in September, demanding they cease offering or accepting “illegal bets or wagers” immediately. A week later, the Florida Gaming Control Commission updated its FAQ page to identify all forms of fantasy as “likely illegal.”

Multiple states have issued those companies cease and desist orders over the past year amid issues with their pick’em offerings, which some have likened to de facto sports betting.

On Thursday, Arkansas regulators also sent cease and desist letters to PrizePicks and Underdog, describing their pick’em games as “player prop bets.”

Regulator orders PrizePicks, Underdog, Betr to leave

The original Florida letters called on fantasy operators to stop operations in Florida.

“Accordingly, as Executive Director of the Florida Gaming Control Commission, I am hereby demanding you immediately cease and desist offering or accepting bets or wagers from residents of this state on the results of any contests of skill such as sports betting, including, but not limited to, bets or wagers made in connection with fantasy sports,” the letters said.

A few months later, legislation was filed that would exempt fantasy sports apps from state gambling laws. A competing bill was filed shortly after that would expressly prohibit player vs. house fantasy games.

The legislature concludes its session on March 8. Bill sponsors Rep. Jason Shoaf and Sen. Travis Hutson did not return multiple requests for comment. Underdog Fantasy, PrizePicks and Betr are all working with respected lobbyists in the state. 

Seminole Tribe leads opposition in Florida

The Seminole Tribe, which essentially has a monopoly to offer sports betting in the state via the 2021 Gaming Compact, has been a driving force behind legislative efforts. 

“We made it very clear that we do not have an issue with fantasy sports, specifically with what DraftKings and FanDuel are offering. With that said, when we get to Underdog, when we get to BetR and others like that, there is no doubt, not just in Jim Allen’s opinion, it’s not just the Florida state gaming (commission) opinion, it’s not just in the attorney general’s opinion, but 11 other states … have flat out said what they are doing is gambling, they’re taking live bets, and it’s illegal. And, yes, unequivocally it violates the compact,” Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen told affiliate WFTV.

The tribe’s sports betting app, Hard Rock Betrelaunched in Florida in November following a court decision that kept it shut down for two years.

DFS rules in Sunshine State

Florida is among several states with murky DFS rules.

A 1991 opinion from then-Attorney General Robert Butterworth suggests that fees associated with fantasy sports contests constitute gambling, though that was 16 years before the first DFS website and those apps have continued catering to Floridians.

Since then, lawmakers have considered multiple proposals to codify the industry, though neither legislative chamber has yet passed any.

LSR reporter Sam McQuillan contributed to this report.