Pennsylvania Passes Law To Study Fantasy Sports As ‘Gambling Product’

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PA study DFS gambling

While many states are looking to exempt daily fantasy sports contests from their gambling laws via legislation, Pennsylvania is not playing along.

This week, the state passed a law that requires the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to create a report that would evaluate “the potential of fantasy sports as a gambling product in this commonwealth.”

The passage of the fantasy sports measure — part of a more expansive bill — was first reported by GamblingCompliance:

What the report on DFS will do

The report commissioned by the law tasks the PGCB with a number of tasks in compiling the report:

The full text of the language addressing fantasy sports can be seen on page 3 here.

One of these is not like the others

A variety of states are charging head-first into the possibility of regulating DFS — some at a breakneck pace, at least in terms of the speed at which state legislatures usually act. (See Virginia getting a DFS bill almost to the finish line in a little over a month.)

Many states are putting forth the model bill suggested by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association — which does not classify DFS as gambling (for obvious reasons) — and then amending it as it proceeds through the legislature, if lawmakers believe it is warranted.

Pennsylvania appears to be one of the few states taking a truly measured approach to DFS by commissioning the report. Although some would argue leaving the status quo — the unregulated environment in which DFS sites currently operate — isn’t tenable.

The report will also attempt to define fantasy sports — something almost no bill tries to do outside of mimicking/altering the language from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

This is perhaps a crucial step that many states are missing, with the possibility of fantasy sports laws authorizing a wide swath of other types of sports betting. (That’s not to mention that there are already a variety of operators on the market offering things that look much more like parlay sports betting than fantasy sports, using the UIGEA definition of fantasy sports as cover.)

This does not necessarily mean DFS legislation won’t be considered in the interim, but it does seem very likely that the legislature will wait for this report.

The backstory of DFS in PA

Once upon a time, it seemed like Pennsylvania was going to move quickly on DFS. In advance of a public hearing in November, chatter had some lawmakers advancing legislation that would treat DFS just like other forms of gaming in the state.

But once that hearing occurred, it became apparent that Pennsylvania would not rush legislation. No new legislation — other than commissioning the report — has been introduced. (A bill was introduced last May that would have authorized land-based casinos in the state to offer fantasy sports contests.)

When — and how — Pennsylvania will address DFS is an open question. But when it does, it seems increasingly likely that it will be treated just like other forms of gambling in the state.

It will also be interesting to see if the report is done in time to intersect with the discussions over legislation that would authorize online poker and casino games in the state, which appears to be on the agenda this spring.