DENVER (AP) – Colorado may be joining the game of regulating fantasy online sports leagues that pay jackpots.
But it’s too soon to say whether state lawmakers will agree on fantasy sports regulation before the clock runs out on this legislative term.
A House committee started work this week on a bill to create a new state Office of Fantasy Sports. Sponsors say that people who use daily fantasy sports betting sites like FanDuel and DraftKings deserve assurances that the game is fair.
“This is an effort to make sure … that we have regulations in place that show Coloradans they have a fair shot to win in some of those games,” said Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver and sponsor of the bill.
The new Office of Fantasy Sports would charge fantasy betting sites a to-be-determined fee and require them to install certain safeguards, such as limiting players to adults over 18 and banning employees and their relatives from competing in the games. Fantasy jackpot companies would also have to submit to audits and keep fantasy contest player money separate from operational funds.
Sponsors of the measure say it would send a strong message that Colorado considers fantasy sports jackpots games of skill, not chance, meaning they’re permissible and not illegal gambling.
“Contestants in these games essentially play the role of a general manager,” explained Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial and another sponsor of the bill. “A lot of time and effort and skill goes into selecting these rosters.”
The Denver Broncos sent a letter in support of the new regulation. It also has the backing of DraftKings.
“What it’s doing is allowing fantasy-sports contests that are predominantly skill,” said Derek Hein, DraftKings’ manager of government affairs.
But not everyone is sold.
Some lawmakers wondered whether state government is even capable of regulating the jackpots.
“If a player has a complaint about whether or not the play was fair … what would be the process for them to bring forth that complaint, and how would the state of Colorado move forward with enforcement?” asked Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper says he’s not sure state regulation is needed.
“I am generally a smaller-government person. I don’t think we need to continually look at more bureaucracy,” said Hickenlooper, who added that he wasn’t following the fantasy-sports bill closely.
House members delayed a vote on the bill this week. No date has been set for a decision.
Congress specifically exempted fantasy sports from the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, but many states have considered their own regulations.
At least six states have declared the daily fantasy games a form of illegal gambling. A few others, including Maryland and Kansas, have expressly permitted fantasy sports betting.
Some 27 states are currently considering some sort of regulations or taxes on the fantasy sports jackpots, Wist said.
About 800,000 Coloradans participate in fantasy sports, though most of those games are free, according to a nonpartisan analysis prepared for state lawmakers. There was no estimate of how many people pay to participate in daily fantasy sports contests.
Wist told lawmakers that they should act soon to regulate the flourishing games.
“In a sports-crazy place like Colorado, the demand is only going to be going up,” Wist said.
LINK: House Bill 1404
– By KRISTEN WYATT, AP Writer
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