Lawmaker Wants Minnesota to Legalize Fantasy Sports

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Associated Press
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Lawmaker Wants Minnesota to Legalize Fantasy Sports

(Associated Press) - A national debate over daily fantasy sports games came to the Minnesota Legislature on Tuesday with a House committee hearing on a proposal that would declare fantasy games are not gambling and are legal in Minnesota.

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“For those that play, it’s clear: It’s passion, it’s a lot of fun,” said Rep. Tim Sanders, who is spearheading the measure and plays daily fantasy games. “For those that don’t, I think there’s a lot confusion.”

Currently, Minnesota law doesn’t address fantasy sports, in which users pay entry fees to manage rosters of teams like a general manager and then earn points depending on how well those players do. Sanders’ bill would declare fantasy sports games to be games of skill, and would allow the companies to operate in Minnesota without being taxed or registered.

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Attorneys general in New York, Illinois and Texas have issued opinions that daily fantasy sports games are illegal games of chance. On Monday, the nation’s two largest daily fantasy sports websites, FanDuel and DraftKings, agreed to stop taking bets in New York as lawmakers consider legalizing the popular online contests. Earlier this month, Virginia became the first state to formally legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports sites.

Some say Sanders’ bill doesn’t go far enough to protect consumers. Rep. Joe Atkins, a Democrat from Inver Grove Heights, asked during the House commerce committee hearing whether he’d be open to adding a requirement that companies would have to register with the state, undergo background checks and be able to be audited.

Sanders, a Blaine Republican, said he would not. He said that begins to raise questions about whether the companies can contract out their own audits and that registration fees in other states were exorbitant.

However, Sanders did amend the bill to require companies to ensure players are at least 18 years old, that their employees not play the games and that the fantasy games not involve high school or college sports.

“I don’t mind adding in some of the consumer protections as long as the experience or the interface that the players have doesn’t shift or change,” he said. “The industries are already doing a lot of those consumer protections anyway.”

Virginia’s regulations for daily fantasy sites require them to pay a $50,000 initial registration fee and submit to regular outside audits. After Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed his state’s bill into law, a spokesman for DraftKings in Virginia said the company thanked the state for its advocacy and hoped that other states would follow Virginia’s lead.

In New York, the attorney general has gone after the daily fantasy sports sites, but has left alone traditional fantasy sports sites that play out over several months and have operated for decades.

Sanders said his bill makes no distinction between seasonal fantasy sites and daily fantasy sites and that, ultimately, there’s no difference between the two and neither are gambling. He said unlike poker, players actively choose their “cards,” adding: “At the end of the day, you need to have better players than the other team, but that’s up to your choosing.”

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