Florida Fantasy Sports Bill Faces Uphill Battle Before Deadline

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Florida DraftKings bill not dead yet

The fate of the legislative effort to regulate daily fantasy sports in Florida is currently in flux and likely faces long odds — at least in the short term — according to recent reports in the state, despite momentum early this year for bills in both houses.

The latest on Florida and DFS

The path for the fantasy sports bills has been a bumpy one, at best.

Initial progress for legislation

House and Senate bills easily passed committee votes in Florida in January. But those bills, as standalone regulatory efforts, have stalled.

Neither bill has been heard in committee or advanced to a full chamber in February.

What happened? The DFS wording went elsewhere

That appears to be because some politicians did not want the bill to advance outside of the larger debate over gaming expansion and a new Seminole gaming compact in the state. According to Florida Politics, Gov. Rick Scott, who negotiated the initial Seminole compact, did not want fantasy sports to be handled separately, per Rep. Jose Felix Diaz:

“It was something the governor was very clear on, that he did not want a standalone fantasy bill to pass if it was not addressed in the Compact,” Diaz said. “The new version of the Compact specifically says if fantasy sports were approved, the Seminoles would think it was gambling and then they could do internet gambling, including but not limited to fantasy sports.”

Now, the gambling bills have problems

The only problem? The gambling legislation and the compact appear to be on life support, at best. Lawmakers in the Senate have called the effort dead; the House has not yet admitted defeat:

That bill — H 7109 — still contains the “Fantasy Contest Amusement Act” in its language.

So, can DFS regulation make it to the finish line?

At this stage, it seems fairly unlikely that all of the various stakeholders will get on the same page on the gambling bills, and just as unlikely that DFS will move forward on its own. The new House effort is being termed a “hail mary” by at least one media outlet.

But, one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Joe Negron, has not given up hope, according to the Miami Herald:

He said his best opportunity to get the language through may rest with the Florida House, where a statewide gambling bill includes much of what he had sought. The trick is whether that bill gets heard by the full House, passes and then makes its way to the Florida Senate for consideration.

“The issue is still alive in the House so we’ll have to see how it plays out,” Negron said.

Of course, all of that would likely have to happen in about a week — Florida’s legislature is scheduled to adjourn March 11.

In the House on Friday, Rep. Matt Gaetz attempted to amend a different bill with DFS language, but that effort failed:

If no Florida regulation, then what?

For starters, DFS would continue to be unregulated in one of the largest states in the country. Of course, that’s the current status in nearly every state.

The bigger question might be what happens regarding the legality of DFS:

At least a few DFS operators left the state last fall — whether that was because of the grand jury or just because they revisited their legal opinions is unknown. (FantasyDraft, for instance, left the state for a time and later returned.)

The best-case scenario for fantasy sports? DFS regulation passes. But short of that is the status quo, and continued legal uncertainty in a state with a lot of fantasy players.