Tuesday January 19,2016 : WASHINGTON STATE D.F.S. PUBLIC HEARING A QUIET AFFAIR (Update)
House Commerce and Gaming Committee considered HB 2370.
A public hearing on the position of daily and traditional fantasy sports – both banned in the real-money sense in Washington state – took place yesterday (Monday) before the state House Commerce and Gaming Committee chaired by Rep. Chris Hurst.
The committee heard testimony and discussed Hurst's HB2370 proposal, which effectively seeks to underline and clarify the fact that all fantasy sports gaming for real money is illegal in Washington state under state law and is punishable by stiff criminal penalties.
The bill is probably one of the harshest against DFS among several due for the Legislature's attention this session, ranging from restricted fantasy sport gaming to legalising, taxing and licensing the genre
Hurst introduced the bill to the committee, arguing that whilst he had no problem with traditional UIGEA-empowered fantasy sports or office pool betting, the development of daily fantasy sports constitutes an expansion of online gambling that represents a danger to the under-aged or compulsive gamblers.
Testimony was heard from the Washington State Gambling Commission, whose chairman Chris Stearns revealed that there was an open and ongoing enquiry by the Commission into fantasy sports but that there had thus far been no prosecutions. Stearns seemed more focused on the practicalities of enforcing laws against fantasy sports and departmental financing.
A former state Attorney General and current fantasy sports lobbyist, Rob McKenna, presented an argument generally favouring reasonable regulation and explaining the position of leading daily fantasy sports firms
A third lobbyist representing the interests of state broadcasters argued against the provisions in the Hurst bill that would make broadcasters liable to class C felony penalties for advertising real money fantasy sports, and Hurst agreed to address this point with a rewrite relieving this threat.
Surprisingly, the witness list was small, and tribal groups had not applied to give testimony.
In general, although the hearing was well-attended there were few if any fireworks from either the audience or committee members.
Two Senate DFS bills are up for discussion at a Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor hearing tomorrow (Wednesday) – SB6333 and SB5284.
Introduced last year but still active, SB5284 seeks to classify fantasy sports contests as contests of skill and has been languishing in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor. Senators Roach, Fain, Hatfield and Mullet are its sponsors.
The more recent SB6333 also seeks to classify fantasy sports as a game of skill and is supported by Senators Ericksen and Dansel. It was introduced this year to the Committee on Commerce and Labor.