A daily fantasy regulatory bill easily passed a vote of the full Assembly in California, with just one person voting against legislation that would provide consumer protections for fantasy players.
Wednesday’s DFS vote
Even the most optimistic proponents of the DFS industry probably could not have envisioned the nearly unanimous vote of 62-1. The bill — AB 1437 — required a two-thirds majority vote of the chamber, or 54 votes. It easily garnered that total.
Assemblymember Marc Levine, who has been a vocal opponent of the DFS industry, was the only “no” vote.
“We are ahead of the curve,” said bill sponsor Assemblyman Adam Gray in a statement following the vote.
“California is setting the tone for the rest of the nation on what a regulatory framework should look like. While there is still a lot of work to be done, I believe California will be the first to pass and implement legislation that allows its citizens to continue to play a game they love in a safe and fair environment.”
From discussion and debate of the DFS bill
No amendments were offered to the bill on the Assembly floor. Several lawmakers spoke in favor of the bill during debate, with Levine the only speaker urging opposition of the legislation.
Support for the bill
Gray offered that the bill would be a first-of-its-kind regulatory framework of the DFS industry. Gray also offered what the bill does not do:
“The bill does not make a determination of the current legality of the games,” Gray said. “That is a question that has been posed to our attorney general and I trust that she is thoroughly studying that question. I will happily follow the lead of our legal experts on what would need to be added pending that decision or opinion.”
The support was nearly unanimous in the chamber.
“This, I think, is a model of how we ought to be conducting our business,” said Assemblymember Donald Wagner, applauding that the bill sought the advice of the fantasy industry and also should make it possible for smaller operators to serve California players.
“It’s very clear that this bill is still a work in progress, anyone can look and tell you that,” said Assemblymember Eric Linder, who added that Gray promised him the bill would return to be considered again by the Governmental Organization committee. “I think it’s worth noting that to do nothing puts up to six million Californians who are playing fantasy sports at risk.”
Levine, a lone voice
Levine has been on an island in opposing the legislation since it came up in committee earlier this month. He’s also been the subject of attacks on the radio from the fantasy industry.
He reiterated that he believes the state needs to amend its constitution to allow for what he sees as an expansion of gambling.
“In the mad rush to authorize this billion dollar industry affecting millions of Californians, it is important that we get this right,” Levine said during debate.
“I appreciate what AB 1437 is attempting to accomplish. But, whether we like it or not, the California Constitution is clear that gambling must first be approved by the voters.”
California DFS background
Momentum has built quickly for the bill, there has been a lot of chatter, and action. Here’s a brief timeline of what has happened in the state:
- Assemblymember Adam Gray, chairman of the Governmental Organization committee, introduced the first real attempt to regulate the DFS industry in early September.
- In October, Gray indicated that he was in no hurry to pass a DFS bill, a concept that would get thrown out the window when the legislature reconvened in January and the bill started to quickly make its way through the Assembly.
- Levine wrote a letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris in November, asking her to look at the legality of DFS. He indicated that he believed DFS is illegal under state law.
- A public hearing was held in Gray’s GO committee in December.
- Some tribal interests in the state indicated they would be pushing back against regulation of DFS moving ahead of online poker.
- A bill passed out of the GO committee nearly unanimously in January and later passed unopposed in the Appropriations committee.
Eric Hollreiser, VP of Corporate Communications for Amaya and PokerStars, provided the following reaction to today’s developments to LSR:
We are very supportive of the CA bill and believe it reflects the kind of consumer protections and industry standards that we support as the leading regulated online gaming company in the world
We also see strong correlation between the merits of this legislation and the merits in regulating online poker, which similarly has millions of Californians participating in today without the protections provided by state regulation and oversight, without the stringent licensing of operators and without the benefit of state revenue derived from the activity.