Tuesday, January 26, 2016 : PARTIES TAKE SIDES IN NEBRASKA FANTASY SPORTS HEARING (Update)
Differing views on Sen. Ty Larson's LB862.
Nebraska's Senator Ty Larson's bill LB862, a measure seeking to permit daily and traditional fantasy sports activity within state borders, was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature's General Affairs Committee Monday and illustrated the gulf between supporters and opponents.
Sen. Larson said his bill declares that such games predominantly require skill and are not games of chance, which state law considers illegal, and a spokesman for the Fantasy Trade Association supported him, pointing out that 300,000 Nebraska residents regularly play on fantasy sports sites, and suggesting:
"The last thing that we want to do is criminalize 300,000 Nebraskans for something they thoroughly enjoy doing."
Representing one of the top DFS companies, DraftKings lobbyist Derek Hein stressed that DFS games are not gambling due to the skill element, and opined that the Larson bill simply formalises the status quo in the state, which has a large and active DFS fan base.
Briefing lawmakers, Hein said that there are similar DFS bills on the table in 25 other states; there are six states that have outlawed DFS, and there are negative AG opinions in New York, Illinois and Texas, where the legality issue remains judicially or legislatively unresolved.
By regulating DFS rather than declaring it illegal, lawmakers would protect the consumer, Hein suggested.
Sen. Colby Coash also supported the Larson bill, saying that it merely formalised an activity that is already legal and widely used. Coash said he has not seen any evidence that fantasy sports are as destructive a habit as compulsive gambling.
Opposing lobbyist Nate Grasz, representing the Nebraska Family Alliance, said most players on fantasy websites lose money, and most of the winnings go to a small fraction of participants. He claimed that operators reap the benefits by taking money from "hard-working Nebraskans."
The executive director of Gambling with the Good Life, Pat Loontjer, asserted that fantasy sports betting is simply a new form of gambling that state legislators should formally ban, but he suggested that Nebraska should await developments nationally, commenting:
"I don't think this is something we need to get into at this point. Let it work itself out. Let the other states decide. Why would we put Nebraska into the throes of this when it's so uncertain?"
The bill was not taken to a vote.