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Fantasy Sports Lobbying up in Florida
Friday January 1,2016 : D.F.S. COMPANIES STEP UP LOBBYING AND POLITICAL DONATIONS IN FLORIDA
The stakes are high, and FanDuel and DraftKings are making a major effort to have lawmakers legalise daily fantasy sports in the state.
Florida media reports indicate that FanDuel and DraftKings have boosted their lobbying and political donations program in the state in an effort to legalise the pastime.
In 1991 a Florida attorney general opined that fantasy sports leagues in which participants pay an entry fee and potentially win cash are illegal, and state Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli have asked Legislature lawyers to look into the legality question.
However, some lawyers have already made up their minds; Tallahassee attorney Marc Dunbar claims that state law is clear - you cannot wager against each other on a game of skill.
"Chess, checkers, cards, fantasy sports, horse racing - it doesn’t matter,” Dunbar told the News Service of Florida. “We can’t wager on a contest of skill. Most states don’t have a statute like that.”
Lawmakers are gearing up to press the legalisation issue; Sen. Joe Negron, Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Rep. Ritch Workman, are sponsoring bills that would legalise daily fantasy sports in Florida. The proposals, Senate Bill 832 and HB 707, have been referred to appropriate committees but will have a steep hill to climb, thanks to strong conservative opposition to any expansion of gambling.
The trade body Fantasy Sports Trade Association has hired Florida lobbyists for the first time, the reports indicate. There are eight lawyers working for the FSTA; all but one of them also employed by market leaders FanDuel and DraftKings, who between them also have more lobbyists on the payroll - Fanduel with 11 in all, and DraftKings with 12.
The Florida reports claim that money is also going to directly lawmakers. FanDuel and DraftKings each donated $500 checks to the same three House Republicans: Rep. Mike LaRosa, Rep. Larry Metz and Rep. Ben Albritton. A fourth, Rep. Jamie Grant, received $500 from FanDuel and $1,000 from DraftKings.
The FSTA has dished out $30,000 to Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee, and $10,000 each to seven lawmakers, including Sen. Rob Bradley, who is chairman of the committee that regulates gambling, and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s political committee also received $10,000.
Eight other legislators received checks ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. In all, the trade association donated $125,500 to lawmakers in 2015, the reports note. But that doesn’t count a $15,000 donation to Sen. Bill Galvano, who returned it two weeks later, citing his policy against receiving any money from gambling interests.
The Florida Legislature returns next week to kick off the 60-day session, and political observers have pointed out that it is relatively late in the process for such a controversial proposal to get a full airing. That means there is a good chance the bills may run out of time before the committee process can be completed floor votes arranged.
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