Thursday, January 7, 2016 : WISCONSIN INITIATIVE TO LEGALISE DAILY FANTASY SPORTS
Republican lawmaker moves to confirm legality in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin, a US state where the constitution bans many forms of gambling, may be among the first to formally legalise daily fantasy sports, if Republican state Representative Tyler Vorpagel has his way.
This week a spokesman for the lawmaker confirmed to the Wisconsin State Journal that he is drafting a bill to legalise and protect online fantasy sports in Wisconsin.
Rep. Vorpagel's proposal will spell out that fantasy sports are legal in Wisconsin, said his legislative aide Ariana Ringelstetter, although she added that the Representative will not disclose details until the draft is finalised.
The move comes as the fantasy sports industry is promoting legalization in other states to protect the growing online business from being banned. Some state legislatures, as well as recent attorney general decisions in Illinois and New York, have banned fantasy sports as illegal gambling.
The Wisconsin constitution presently allows only raffles, bingo halls, the state lottery and tribal casinos when it comes to gambling.
Anne Schwartz, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Brad Schimel, said the AG hasn’t received any complaints about daily fantasy sports operators like Draft Kings and FanDuel, and doesn’t presently have an opinion as to whether they are a game of skill or chance.
In related news, two state lobbyists were recently appointed to represent the Fantasy Sports Trade Association in Wisconsin. Ryan Murray is a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker, and Buddy Julius is president of The Firm Consulting and a former lobbyist for AT&T.
Tribal parties in the state are also showing an interest in DFS – on Monday the Forest County Potawatomi notified the Government Accountability Board of its interest in the subject of online fantasy sports. A spokesman for the tribe declined to comment on the issue.
Several technology companies involved in DFS are located in Wisconsin, including Rotowire.com, according to its CEO, Peter Schoenke, who is also chairman of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.
In 2006, Congress banned financial institutions from authorising transactions for illegal online gambling websites, but it carved out an exemption for fantasy sports. However, that exemption doesn’t supersede state law, Schoenke says, adding that DFS is a game of skill – not chance – and is therefore not gambling.
Taking a contrary view is Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, who claims that fantasy sports becomes a form of gambling once the websites charge and pay out money.
The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) has mounted lobbying campaigns in over 20 states to push for legalization at state level.
The lobbying strategy was implemented as early as February 2015, according to FSTA legal counsel Jeremy Kudon, who observed recently that a number of states have shown relatively little interest in taxing DFS with an election year ahead.
Kudon says that the industry is in general prepared to make contributions towards the cost of regulation, and is open to adopting practical and effective consumer protection measures.
Legal reviews on daily fantasy sports are currently taking place in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, whilst New York, Florida and Illinois insist that the genre constitutes gambling and must be licensed.