JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – One of the most perplexing moments to Gov. Jay Nixon’s State of the State speech in January came when he mentioned the need for increased regulation of daily fantasy sports websites. Nixon had hardly mentioned the subject before, but he seemed intent to mention it in his final address to the General Assembly.
“This is gambling,” Nixon said. “Kids are playing, and it’s completely unregulated. And there are lobbyists in this building who want to keep it that way. If you’re going to legalize it, we must regulate it and tax it just like we do casinos.
“This industry should follow the law, play by the rules, and pay its fair share.”
As a response to that statement, Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, introduced legislation that explicitly excludes these fantasy sites from regulations pertaining to gambling.
Fitzpatrick argued the newness of these specific types of fantasy leagues has added to confusion by states around the country over how to regulate the burgeoning industry.
“It wasn’t very well known in the last couple of years,” FItzpatrick said in his opening speech. “As its popularity has increased across the country, several states have questioned how to deal with that.”
While the popularity and notability of sites like FanDuel and DraftKings have increased, due to large nine-figure advertising campaigns and scandals involving their own employees possibly gaming the system, they have also made a ton of money. A representative for FanDuel, DraftKings and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) said over 50 million people used those fantasy sports services every year.
Fitzpatrick and those who testified in support of the bill also noted that fantasy sports dealt more with a skill-based game than any kind of game of chance that could be considered gambling. Christopher Grimm, who spoke on behalf of the FSTA, likened fantasy sports more akin to stock trading; just as an investor picks certain stocks based on research into market trends, company success and other factors, a fantasy football team manager drafted and traded for players after researching their statistics, the success of their team, and the offensive schemes of the real-world team to which the player belongs. DraftKings and other daily fantasy sports sites simply take place on a shorter timeline.
“Regardless of the length of the contest, fantasy sports are based on skill, not on chance,” Grimm said.
Fitzpatrick said he simply wanted to ensure the rights of Missourians, citing concerns that other states had already looked to litigate against these sites.
“This bill is trying to be proactive,” he said. ”It’s trying to codify the rights of Missourians to participate in daily fantasy sports.”