Alabama is taking another swing at legalizing daily fantasy sports.
The proposed Fantasy Contests Act would legalize and regulate paid-entry contests in the state, allowing companies like DraftKings and FanDuel to serve it once again. They’ve been out of the market since 2016 cease and desist orders from Attorney General Luther Strange.
Efforts to legislate around that opinion have come up short for two years running.
2018 Alabama DFS bill
Sen. Paul Sanford is the sponsor of the current bill, S 325. It moves to exclude paid-entry fantasy contests from the state’s gambling prohibitions.
It also charges the Office of the Attorney General with the task of licensing and regulating Alabama’s DFS industry. That’s the same office that forced operators to leave the state two years ago.
Sanford’s bill includes these provisions:
- Sets the registration and annual renewal fee for operators
- $5,000 for new operators
- $85,000 for existing operators with more than 5,000 customers
- Sets the minimum playing age at 19
- Excludes contests based on collegiate and amateur events
- Installs consumer protections comparable to those in other states
This version of the Fantasy Contests Act was read for the first time on Feb. 20 and referred to the committee on Tourism and Marketing. The bill mirrors the senator’s previous efforts, which date back to 2016 and have yet to reach a vote in that committee.
Previous attempts to legalize DFS in Alabama
Sanford isn’t the only one trying to push Alabama DFS legislation. Two other fantasy sports bills were considered in 2017, one in the House and another in the Senate. All three bills carried the same short name with slight variations on the specifics.
Sen. Tom Whatley’s effort, S 28, met the same fate as Sanford’s. It died in the Senate without serious committee consideration.
In the lower chamber, a group of representatives submitted their own attempt, H 354. Surprisingly, committees there did advance it onto the floor. And after almost two hours of quotable debate, the full House passed the bill by the nose of the football, 43-38.
It was sent to the Senate, but the upper chamber never reached a vote before adjourning for 2017.
House debate exposes truth, hypocrisy
The House debate session prior to passage included a memorable exchange. Rep. Alvin Holmes essentially went on record that he and some of his fellow lawmakers bet on football games.
I got the names of members of the legislature that are against gambling, bet every Saturday on Alabama football games and Auburn football games. And I know the bookies that you bet with. Because I bet with them every once in awhile.
Sports betting and daily fantasy football both appear to be illegal under Alabama law, short of a challenge from the DFS operators on the latter. Only one of them is actively taking place, though.
DFS operators have been forced to shut down their revenue-generating operations, while illegal bookmakers and offshore sportsbooks continue to thrive in the shadows. Holmes pointed out the hypocrisy among lawmakers, himself included.
“I’m admitting to a crime that takes place every weekend,” he said.