Bill legalizing fantasy games moves forward

Posted at 4:59 PM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-27 23:30:43-05

TALLAHASSEE — A bill sponsored by Senate President-designate Joe Negron of Stuart to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports games passed out of the Regulated Industries Committee Wednesday morning, but not without a debate over whether the game constituted chance or skill.

Negron’s bill would make daily fantasy sports legal in Florida by basically saying it’s not a form of gambling but a form of amusement. It would set up an Office of Amusements, set up a regulatory framework and ability to suspend a license if any misconduct was found.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and chairman of the committee, said he was the last person to stand on a rooftop and advocate for criminalizing people who play fantasy games, but he was not sure that it wasn’t a form of gambling.

When you make up a team and play the whole season, Bradley said, “That is a true exercise in amusement in my mind. That was not gaming, in my mind.”

But the way it’s evolved into a daily operation “brings to account more chance and it feels more like gaming,” Bradley said.

The bill was approved with Bradley among the two people to vote against it.

Marc Dunbar, a lawyer representing the Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream Park, said daily fantasy sports games is a $4 billion business that operates in the same sphere as Stronach’s online wagering platform. He asked what’s stop fantasy games from including live horse races some day. Horse racing is a $9 billion industry.

“This bill legalizes fantasy sports,” Dunbar said, arguing that it ought to be regulated like other gambling enterprises in Florida.

Dunbar also said the bill ought to have criminal sanctions against fraud. Negron said he’d take that under consideration. “Maybe we can incorporate the fraud statute into the bill,” Negron said.