That status could be set to change thanks to a new legislative effort from Rep. Forest Mandeville (HB 181) aimed at easing some of the restrictions that currently prohibit Montana residents from playing fantasy sports online.
Key points of HB 181
- Mandeville’s bill stops short of outright legalization of all real-money fantasy sports games. The bill carves out exceptions to Montana gambling law for fantasy sports leagues “that charge total fees not to exceed $100.”
- The bill specifically exempts qualifying fantasy sports play from the definition of internet gambling under Montana code.
- The bill alters the definition of “fantasy sports league” to allow for inclusion of collegiate sports.
- And to allow for entities other than parimutuel networks to operate such leagues.
- The bill amends 23-5-802 to make qualifying fantasy sports play exempt from the explicit prohibition on wagering on online fantasy sports.
- Critically, the bill does not remove that prohibition, meaning online fantasy sports play that falls outside of the scope described by the bill would still be explicitly illegal.
Full bill text here.
Mandeville offered a brief comment on the bill via Twitter:
— Forrest Mandeville (@FJMandeville) January 10, 2015
What stops DFS sites from operating in Montana in the status quo?
In simple terms: Montana is one of a handful of “any chance” states that defines gambling as risking a thing of value on an outcome that involves any chance.
From the Montana Code:
(13) (a) “Gambling” or “gambling activity” means risking any money, credit, deposit, check, property, or other thing of value for a gain that is contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, or the operation of a gambling device or gambling enterprise.
That’s in contrast to two other common standards used to define gambling in state law – “material degree” of chance, where chance plays not just any role, but a substantial one, and “dominant factor,” where the majority of the outcome is determined by chance.
2015 could be a busy legislative year for DFS
Mandeville’s bill came the same week as an attempt to regulate some types of online fantasy sports play in Indiana.
And the two states are unlikely to be the last to address the issue before the year is out.
Several industry sources told me that lobbying efforts in a number of states – especially those with perceived restrictions on one-day fantasy sports – has ramped up dramatically in recent months.
The five most-typically-blocked states – Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Washington State – have a combined population of roughly 22 million.