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The comments from Johnson were sent to reporters late on the day in Friday. It followed a rally by players and employees of the DFS operators in Manhattan in front of the office of NY AG Eric Schneiderman, and after FanDuel and DraftKings filed lawsuits to attempt to stop Schneiderman from taking action against them.
The statement was provided by DraftKings with little context — it simply referred to him as the “Former Governor of New Mexico.” Here is the full text of the statement from Johnson:
“More than 40 million Americans play fantasy sports. They use their own money, they enjoy it, and their choice to play is a personal decision. It’s like deciding to buy a cup of coffee, except that it involves some skill and offers a chance to win some money.
But the Attorney General of New York has decided, without anything resembling due process or an understanding of how it is skill based, that New Yorkers shouldn’t be allowed to make that choice to play fantasy sports. He is trying to use the force of government to unilaterally regulate New Yorkers’ behavior, take away their freedom to have some fun — and in the process, close down businesses that are otherwise thriving.
This in a state that has been operating a lottery for almost 50 years. In fact, New York was one of the first states in the nation to establish government-sponsored gaming.
The Attorney General’s unwarranted attack on fantasy sports is classic government overreach. Government should protect freedom, not curtail it just because a politician wants to. When tens of millions of Americans want to engage in a fun, harmless activity, why is it any of the government’s business? There are plenty of laws on the books to protect citizens from fraud and abuse, if and when it occurs. Taking away the freedom of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers is just wrong.”
The genesis of the statement from Johnson is unknown (i.e. if it was at the behest of DraftKings). But his position that the government should stay out of people’s lives with regards to daily fantasy sports is hardly a surprise, although these are his first known comments on this specific issue.
Johnson is best known as a 2012 presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. He is also now heading the Our America Initiative, which advances libertarian ideals.
As he was running for president in the wake of online poker’s Black Friday in 2011, he was a champion of people being able to be able to play poker freely. His campaign actually posted at the poker forums at twoplustwo.com, courting the vote of poker players in 2011:
Governor Johnson has strongly condemned the federal crackdown on online poker, arguing that the right to assume risk and to gamble (in the privacy of one’s own home, no less) is a basic right that should not involve the government.
Governor Johnson has issued the following statement: “Government has absolutely no business telling Americans what they can do with their own time and their own money on their own computers, and that most certainly should apply to playing poker online. The fact that Americans are now prevented from playing online poker is an outrage. Unfortunately it is but another chilling example of how Congress and the Justice Department continue to trample on our personal liberty.
Of course, online poker in the United States finds itself largely in the same predicament that it did four years ago, although it is now legal and regulated in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.
Clearly libertarians who love Johnson and decry government intervention might be moved by Johnson’s strong words. And it’s another tally mark on a list of politicians who have publicly lashed out at Schneiderman’s action.
But, in the end of the day, it seems like this statement is meant to help in the public relations battle that DraftKings and FanDuel are waging, rather than to make a material difference in the actual legal machinations at work.
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