Kansas Lawmaker Pushes for Protection of Fantasy Sports as Skill Game

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Kansas State Capitol

Kansas state representative Brett Hildabrand continued his push to make sure fantasy sports are not labeled as an illegal lottery in his home state, appearing at a Senate hearing to talk about his Fantasy Sports Protection Act.

Championing the cause

Hildabrand has been out in front of the fantasy sports issue in Kansas, introducing legislation just last month. There are currently two companion bills — a Senate and a House version — in front of the Kansas legislature: SB267 and HB2371. On Tuesday, Hildabrand took a step toward making his bill a reality, at a committee hearing:

Hildabrand has deemed the legislation to be necessary because of the stance taken by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission. That governmental organization considers daily fantasy sports contests to be an illegal lottery, under state law. From a KRGC FAQ:

As with any other illegal gambling matter, if a fantasy sports league involves the elements of (1) prize, (2) chance and (3) consideration, then it is an illegal “lottery” prohibited by Kansas criminal law.

Fixing the “chance”

Hildabrand wants to make sure fantasy sports players aren’t running afoul of the law, by declaring fantasy sports a game of skill in his bill. The language of Hildabrand’s legislation amends K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 21-6403, which deals with gambling and lotteries in Kansas. Hildabrand’s bill does a few things:

(d) “fantasy sports league” means a any fantasy or simulation sports game or contest in which no fantasy or simulation sports team is based on the current membership of an actual team that is a member of an amateur or professional sports organization and that meets the following conditions:
(1) All prizes and awards offered to winning participants are established and made known to the participants in advance of the game or contest and their value is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of any fees paid by those participants;
(2) all winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants and are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of individual athletes in multiple real-world sporting events; and
(3) no winning outcome is based:
(A) On the score, point spread or any performance or performances of any single real-world team or any combination of such teams; or
(B) solely on any single performance of an individual athlete in any single real-world sporting event;

Better safe than sorry

No one has been arrested or prosecuted for playing daily fantasy sports, and the KRGC even notes that “To our knowledge, no agency at the State or local level is ramping up efforts to go after FSL (Fantasy Sports League) participants.”

Hildabrand believes a fantasy sports player shouldn’t have to fear being the first one to get in trouble. The Topeka Capital-Journal covered Tuesday’s hearing, and Hildabrand laid out his argument:

Hildabrand said the vast majority of players didn’t know they were operating on the wrong side of the law.

“The commission has said that they do not have any intent to prosecute those participating. However, I consider myself a rule of law person. I believe that if we have rules and laws in statute that they should count for something. They should either be enforced or they should not be a policy to begin with.”

What’s next?

The bill did not come up for a vote in the committee, so it hasn’t been passed on to the main chamber yet. The Capital-Journal report said the committee “may take up the measure later this week.”

Right now, most DFS sites accept players from Kansas; Star Fantasy Leagues is the lone exception, as it blocks Kansans from competing in its real-money contests.

Given the current climate, it doesn’t seem like FanDuel, DraftKings or anyone else would pull out of Kansas, even if the Hildabrand bill doesn’t pass. But given a higher level of scrutiny of DFS that accompanies this bill, that is at least a possibility. Currently, Kansas isn’t listed as a state where action is needed on FantasySportsFreedom.com, a site backed by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association that is pushing for DFS legalization in five states where gaming laws do not permit DFS.

Photo by Aviper2k7 used under license CC BY-SA 3.0.