Less than a month after online sports betting restarted in Florida, state legislators introduced bills to regulate and protect daily fantasy sports operators in the Sunshine State.
Florida daily fantasy sports currently exist in a “gray” area of the law. Daily fantasy sports are not technically legal, but several companies operate DFS contests in the state.
The bills come in the wake of legal challenges targeting three fantasy sports operators from the Florida Gaming Control Commission.
Both bills received unanimous passage in the Regulated Industries Committee last week. Then, they received another unanimous “Yes” vote from the Fiscal Policy Committee on Feb. 7.
They now await a second reading in the Senate.
What do the two Senate bills propose?
The bills introduced by Sen. Travis Hutson (R-St. Augustine) on Jan. 5 would make DFS legal and create a regulatory framework. The Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) would regulate the industry.
Senate Bill 1568 would give the agency control of enforcing and administrating rules for applications and licenses:
“Designating the ‘Fantasy Sports Contest Amusement Act’; requiring the Florida Gaming Control Commission to enforce and administer the act; providing application requirements for fantasy sports contest operator licenses; requiring a contest operator to implement specified consumer protection procedures; requiring contest operators to keep and maintain certain records for a specified period, etc.”
Contests involving college sports would be prohibited. In addition, wagers that resemble those in sports betting would be illegal, according to the wording of SB 1568:
“All winning outcomes must reflect the relative knowledge and skill of participants and be determined by accumulated statistical results of the performing individuals, including athletes in the case of sporting events. No winning outcome is based on the score, point spread, the performance of a single team or combination of teams; solely on any single performance of an individual athlete or player in a single event; on pari-mutuel events; on poker or other card games; or on performances of those participating in collegiate, high school or youth sporting events.”
Senate Bill 1566 addresses a requirement that operators pay the state of Florida licensing fees:
“Requiring applicants for a fantasy sports contest operator license to pay a specified application fee; requiring contest operators to pay a specified annual license renewal fee; prohibiting such fees from exceeding a specified amount; requiring applicants and contest operators to provide certain written evidence; requiring contest operators to remit certain fees, etc.”
Why are some daily fantasy operators currently under fire in Florida?
DFS has been in Florida for decades. Legal threats over the years have not hampered operators from offering games. Even a 1991 opinion from the state attorney general advising that playing DFS games could be illegal didn’t stop operators.
Fast forward to 2023, and the threat to smaller operators is more tangible. The FGCC sent cease-and-desist letters to some operators in September. The commission claimed the companies were offering games that resemble mobile sports betting games. The agency threatened to initiate legal action if the operators failed to stop.
Three operators received the letters from the FGCC:
- Underdog Sports LLC
- SidePrize LLC, also known as Performance Predictions LLC, doing business as PrizePicks
- Betr Holdings Inc.
The FGCC didn’t target the major players in the Florida DFS market, DraftKings and FanDuel since they do not offer the same type of DFS contests.
State Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) grilled the commission on why it singled out the three operators in a Dec. 18 letter to FGCC Executive Director Lou Trombetta, according to CBS News Miami.
“The letters definitively state that ‘betting or wagering on the result of contests of skill … including fantasy sports betting, is strictly prohibited and constitutes a felony offense.’ Notably, however, the commission’s public position is less definitive. In the FAQs (frequently asked questions) on the commission’s website, the commission states that ‘wagering on fantasy sports’ is ‘probably not’ legal. I am concerned that the commission is applying an interpretation that is not supported by law and that the commission may be selectively enforcing its interpretation.”
The commission asserts that because the three operators offer parlay prop-style games, they are akin to illegal sports betting operators. Only tribal entities can offer sports wagering in Florida, according to the FGCC:
“Under Florida law, betting or wagering on the result of contests of skill, such as sports betting, including fantasy sports betting, is strictly prohibited and constitutes a felony offense unless such activity is otherwise exempted by statute. Accordingly, in Florida, sports betting may be lawfully conducted only pursuant to a gaming compact.”
What’s next for the Senate bills?
If the bills pass the Senate, they will move to the House of Representatives for committee hearings and votes.
A successful trajectory would have the bills returning to the Senate if any changes are made in the House. Then, they could be adopted by both houses and be delivered to the governor’s desk for a signature into law.
The last day of the current regular session of the Florida Legislature is March 8.