Missouri Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick became the latest lawmaker at the state level to propose a bill that would seek to legalize the fantasy sports industry.
The bill was first reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The fantasy sports legislation — HB 1941 — was introduced on Wednesday, in advance of the legislature returning to session on Jan. 6. Tracking here, full text here.
The nuts and bolts of the fantasy sports bill
Fitzpatrick’s bill is industry-friendly, as written. The bill simply seeks to make sure that fantasy sports contests do not run afoul of state law — a concern that has grown as attorneys general in New York and Illinois have said they believe DFS is illegal gambling in their states.
The bill would amend 572.010 in Missouri code, saying that “the offering and operating of a fantasy contest as defined in this section does not constitute advance gambling activity.”
Like many bills before it — including ones passed in Kansas (this year) and Maryland (2012) — the legislation takes most of its language directly from the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. That includes the same definition of fantasy contests that the UIGEA relies upon.
It includes the potentially problematic phrase that says a “fantasy contest” is not a gambling activity, as long as “all winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants” (i.e. if a fantasy contest requires skill, not saying that fantasy sports is a game of skill, by nature). That language could potentially still cause confusion about the legality of DFS, despite the fact that it has been used in the aforementioned laws, as well as other bills.
No regulation in DFS bill
The bill, as written, contains no regulation or consumer protections in it. It simply seeks to clarify fantasy sports’ legality — i.e. make it explicitly legal under state law — not to provide any oversight of the industry.
Most bills that have been proposed in recent months have been regulatory in nature, although there are active bills in New York that would also exempt DFS from state gambling code.
Fitzpatrick, a Republican, told the Post-Dispatch that a tax of DFS operators might be considered:
“I think that is definitely something that is up for discussion,” he said. “This is a pretty unique circumstance. That discussion could definitely be on the table.”
That seems to indicate that perhaps the bill is a placeholder for a larger discussion of DFS, with the starting point of making sure it is legal in Missouri.