Wednesday, October 19, 2011 : Trade body has plans for states where betting on make-believe is still prohibited
 
The Fantasy Sports Trade Association, which represents many corporates in the sector within the United States, is moving up a gear and engaging more directly with politicians, according to a report in the newspaper USA Today this week.
 
The organisation has engaged Travis McCoy, a former aide to House Speaker John Boehner to lobby on its behalf, and has formed a special political action committee to oversee and plan the process.
 
Fantasy sports, in which fans create mock teams of real-life players that compete for statistical advantage, are exempted from the UIGEA, which bans financial transactions with online gambling sites, making the pastime an interesting segment of the industry and big business.  USA Today says that the sector generated $1.9 billion in revenue in 2008 and has been growing at pace.
 
Last year, nearly one in five males 12 and older in the USA played fantasy sports, Peter Schoenke, the association's chairman and president of RotoWire.com, a sports information site, told the newspaper.
 
According to online activity monitor Hitwise, U.S. sports fantasy sites drew 312 million visits last month with the start of the National Football League's regular season, a 12 percent increase over September 2010.
 
Explaining the need for more political engagement, McCoy said that FSTA wants to guard against any changes to federal law that could hurt business.
 
Nearly a dozen states have laws that either ban their residents from collecting winnings from online fantasy games or raise questions about the legality of the games, McCoy told USA Today, giving as an example the state of Louisiana, where state Rep. Thomas Carmody last year pushed a measure that would have exempted fantasy games from a state anti-gambling provision.
 
He was unsuccessful – his proposal failed on a 73-16 vote after opposition from the Louisiana Family Forum, who felt it was an attempt to expand gambling.
 
FSTA lobbying activity is clearly starting small; McCoy revealed that the Association has so far expended a mere $6 000 – a drop in the ocean compared with the almost $1 million spent by the National Football League in lobbying Congress over the first six months of 2011.