Arizona, California, Florida, Wisconsin Also Have DFS, Tribal Issues

Tribal Gaming Interests Waking Up On Fantasy Sports: Oklahoma Coalition Quashes Bill

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Fantasy sports legislation is being introduced and considered at a breakneck pace in states across the U.S. But tribal gaming concerns have stopped the progress of at least two fantasy sports bills, the latest example coming in Oklahoma.

What happened with Oklahoma’s DFS bill

A pair of bills regulating daily fantasy sports had been introduced in the House and Senate in Oklahoma in February. The legislation had passed committee votes in both chambers, but progress had stalled.

The reason for that became clear this week, as tribal gaming interests claimed credit for stopping the bill. From the Osage Nation’s website:

Among a coalition of tribal leaders, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear supported successful efforts to defeat the “Oklahoma Fantasy Contests Act” (HB 2278/SB 1396) on March 8 at the Oklahoma State Capitol during a regular meeting of the Oklahoma Caucus of Native American Legislators. The bill aims to establish Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) online betting in Oklahoma and violate gaming compacts.

One of the bills’ sponsors, Sen. David Holt, confirmed to Legal Sports Report that the bill has been dropped for the time being.

Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker also reportedly wrote a letter commending the effort, saying it is “clear that we will be fighting [legislation] again in the future.”

Tribes and the current conversation on DFS

States that allow tribal gaming usually have compacts that govern how gambling takes place in the state. While tribes around the U.S. have been slow to address the issue, that appears to be changing. It was the topic of two panels at National Indian Gaming Association conference last week:

Tribes don’t necessarily oppose DFS, on its face, but some do appear to be against legislation that would create a set of rules totally apart from the gaming compacts. That is certainly the case in Oklahoma, as the tribes did not take kindly to the legislation — the “model” bill that is pushed by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, DraftKings and FanDuel in many states.

More from the Osage Nation:

“Fantasy sports are online internet contests such as fantasy football leagues. Substantial money is played during these games and the proposed legislation of the State of Oklahoma would bring money to Oklahoma State Government and exclude the tribes,” said Chief Standing Bear about the now dead controversial legislation.

Also, tribes against DFS in Arizona

The other example of where tribal gaming interests have actively opposed DFS legislation — and appear to be winning that battle — is in Arizona, one of the states where paid-entry fantasy sports has always been considered illegal.

S 1515 was introduced earlier this year, but was defeated in the Senate Rules Committee. Recent reporting indicates that the effort may not be entirely dead. A source indicated to LSR that action could come as soon as this week.

The biggest roadblock in the state is the Arizona Indian Gaming Association. That group has stopped fantasy sports legislation in the past, and is still not on board with the more recent legislative effort.

The AIGA even has a website specifically dedicated to opposing the bill in Arizona. There and elsewhere, the group contends that passing the legislation would mean the gaming compact would be null and void.

From the website:

Any change in State law, whether enacted by the State legislature or a vote of the people, that allows for an expansion of gaming off Indian lands that was not lawful on May 1, 2002, permits Tribes to offer gaming without limitation.

The contributions to education, trauma and emergency services, tourism, wildlife conservation and funding for the Office of Problem Gaming all but disappear.

Arizona risks all of this to legalize a multibillion-dollar commercial gambling industry that will share no revenues with the State.

It has not appeared that the state legislature is terribly excited about testing the AIGA’s stance on this, so far.

Other states where DFS bills and tribes may be at odds

Tribal concerns are in play in a number of other states, as well, but it’s unclear to what extent tribes are attempting to stop or slow progress in the legislatures. (These are far from the only states where tribal gaming and DFS could intersect, just the states where there has been activity on this front.)

California

A DFS regulatory bill made it through the state Assembly almost unopposed. But nearly two months after that historic vote, the Senate has not yet taken up the matter.

While there’s not necessarily a rush in California to meet a legislative deadline, speculation on the slowdown in the Senate focuses on tribal gaming as a possible foil to the bill as written.

Some tribal interests have written letters to key lawmakers about the DFS bill as written (more here and here), and calling into question the currently legality of DFS under state law.

At the aforementioned NIGA conference, counsel for the Pechanga tribe was on a panel discussing DFS:

No matter what happens with legislation, it appears clear that tribal gaming will have a voice in the process in California.

Florida

The daily fantasy sports bill in Florida made progress on its own in January, but efforts eventually stalled. Somewhere along the line, DFS regulation became tied the Seminole gaming compact, as requested by Gov. Rick Scott.

Efforts to consider DFS outside of the context of the gaming compact — before the legislature adjourned — also failed.

The Seminoles had largely been quiet, at least publicly, other than this comment earlier this year:

As such, it appears the Seminoles were likely not receptive to DFS being considered outside of the gaming compact.

Wisconsin

The state legislature adjourned without seriously considering DFS regulation, which had been addressed in a public hearing.

But the state’s tribal gaming compacts almost immediately became a cause of concern for lawmakers. It’s a matter of speculation if this is the reason the bill did not advance, but it does seem like a fair guess that without tribes being on board, DFS regulation will face an uphill climb in the future.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.