No Movement Yet On Actual DFS Bill In Pennsylvania
Legal Sports Report

Pennsylvania Isn’t Rushing Daily Fantasy Sports Bill After Gaming Committee Hearing

DFS hearing Pennsylvania
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A Pennsylvania committee hearing to consider the daily fantasy sports industry had fewer fireworks than expected, as the hearing was informational in nature and did not touch much on actual legislation that would regulate DFS.

We know about as much about Pennsylvania’s DFS plans as we did before

Before Tuesday’s hearing in the House Gaming Oversight Committee, there were few details known about what would be discussed. The title of the hearing was simply “Fantasy Sports & Sports Betting” and no agenda or witness list was publicly posted.

Earlier reports seemed to indicate that more track would be laid for amending an existing DFS bill to provide consumer protections and a regulatory scheme, while considering licensing fees and taxation on the industry. A recent report still says the DFS bill’s sponsor, Rep. George Dunbar, plans to introduce an amendment that would force DFS operators to partner with existing brick-and-mortar casinos.

But like Monday’s DFS hearing in a New Jersey Assembly committee, Tuesday’s GO Committee hearing turned out to be largely informational and exploratory in nature.

While we got some of sense of what lawmakers are thinking, the hearing didn’t reveal much that wasn’t already known: Pennsylvania still wants to consider what to do with DFS and how much regulation of the industry is appropriate. Comments from Dunbar, committee chair Rep. John Payne and Democratic chair Nick Kotik indicated that amending HB 1197 to include regulatory elements remains the baseline plan in Pennsylvania, barring new developments.

The committee’s next hearing, on November 19th, is also slated to address DFS. That hearing is set to take place at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course. Direct discussion or mark-up of Dunbar’s bill does not appear to be slated for that hearing, either. Given the location, it seems the state’s brick-and-mortar interests may be asked to weigh in on DFS.

The bottom line is that passage of a bill that would affect daily fantasy sports does not appear to be close. The relevant legislation has yet to be amended, and some debate of an actual bill would need to take place. So it appears that a measured approach will be taken in Pennsylvania, and that a bill will not be forced through the legislature quickly, at least for now.

The witnesses in the PA DFS hearing

No witnesses appeared on behalf of the DFS industry — the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, DraftKings or FanDuel. Amaya rep Nick Menas (whose company operates the DFS site StarsDraft) was invited but was unable to attend because of traffic problems after attending yesterday’s New Jersey hearing.

Who did appear?

  • John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance. His full testimony is here. Pappas spoke on legal issues confronting DFS and online gaming and the skill vs. chance debate that many jurisdictions are considering in regards to DFS.
  • Kevin O’Toole, executive director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and PGCB chief counsel Douglas Sherman. They talked about the current legal landscape, issues in other states regarding DFS, and the PGCB’s general willingness to play a role in regulation of the industry.
  • Dan Shapiro, business development director of William Hill US. He spoke about the potential of the sports betting market in a legalized and regulated environment. Pennsylvania has also introduced sports betting legislation.

The main themes in comments from lawmakers before testimony and in Q&A’s emphasized the need for customer protections and questions about whether DFS is a game of skill or a game of chance.

DFS discussion in the middle of PA budget impasse, other gambling issues

The DFS regulation discussion comes as much larger issues are being considered in the commonwealth. Pennsylvania is in the middle of a months-long budget impasse that may be nearing an end. As part of budget negotiations, a gambling expansion package that may include the legalization online poker and casino games is being considered.

If the budget is truly close to passing, daily fantasy sports does not appear to be a likely candidate to be tacked on to a gaming package, at this point.

But that’s just for the short term. Nothing in Tuesday’s hearing leads one to believe that Pennsylvania’s legislature has any less of an appetite to regulate the DFS industry. The final form of a regulatory bill is still up in the air, however.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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