Rep. Mandeville “Optimistic” That Montana Fantasy Sports Bill Will Pass

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Montana Fantasy Sports Bill

The primary storyline of the one-day fantasy sports industry in 2014 was of investment and growth.

In 2015, both will remain critical parts of the larger industry narrative. But we’re also likely to see legal and regulatory issues challenge the financial story for top spot in the DFS conversation.

Consider Montana, one of five states consistently blocked by major daily fantasy sites like FanDuel and DraftKings.

Only days into the state’s new legislative session, Rep. Forrest Mandeville introduced a bill to relax some of Montana’s prohibitions against online real-money fantasy sports games.

Read an overview of the bill here, full text here and track the bill’s progress here.

In a brief interview with ODFReport, Rep. Mandeville provided some insight into what persuaded him to make a fantasy sports bill one of his first legislative acts, clarified some of the finer points of the bill and offered an upbeat assessment of the bill’s chances in the Montana legislature.

Chris Grove: Can you talk a bit about what motivated you to introduce this bill?

Rep. Forrest Mandeville: My motivation behind this bill is to allow Montanans the same opportunities enjoyed by the residents of 45 other states to enter online fantasy sports leagues and to win prizes from those leagues.

Chris Grove: What’s your sense of the general attitude in the legislature toward the issue of online real-money fantasy sports?

I am encouraged by the support this bill has received from other members of the House of Representatives and from Montanans around the state.

Grove:  What’s the thought underpinning the $100 threshold? And some sections seem to suggest that the total fees for any league (i.e., the sum of all entry fees from all players) can’t exceed $100. But in other places it reads like that restriction applies to individual entries (i.e. the cost to any individual player cannot exceed $100). Can you clarify which is the case?

Mandeville: The purpose behind the $100 threshold is to cap fees paid by individuals to join a league at $100 to show that this bill is aimed at allowing small-level online fantasy sports and is not a back door to legalized high-stakes online gambling.

This bill is not a gambling bill; it is a recreation bill aimed at allowing Montanans to participate in a harmless recreational activity.

Grove:  Can you briefly walk us through the path ahead for the bill? What are some of the milestones / potential hurdles we should keep an eye out for?

Mandeville: The next step for this bill is a hearing before the House Business and Labor Committee on Friday, January 16, at which the committee will hear from proponents and opponents of the bill.

Opponents will likely be from gambling interests in the state that do not understand fantasy sports and fear either the loss of profits or an increase in allowable online gambling.

The challenge, then, is to educate the members of the Business and Labor Committee, and other members of the House, about fantasy sports and how typical fantasy sports leagues work.

After the hearing, the bill will be scheduled for executive action, at which the Committee will decide to pass, not pass, or table the bill.

The Committees decision will then be forwarded to the whole house to vote on it and if passed by the house, will be transmitted to the State Senate where the process will begin again.  If passed by both the House and Senate, the bill will be forwarded to Governor Bullock who will either sign the bill into law or veto the bill.

I am encouraged by the support this bill has received and am optimistic of its passage.

Full text of Rep. Mandeville’s bill is available here, and you can track the bill’s progress here.