Major daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel happily let you play DFS in Florida. But that belies a more complex legal environment for daily fantasy.
Many states are already cashing in on daily fantasy sports with nearly two dozen states explicitly legalizing DFS and generating tax revenue from it.
Florida, however, is not part of this crowd. Legislation did make its way through the pipelines in 2021, but pushback from the DFS community pressured the bill sponsor to pull the proposal off the table.
So it continues that fantasy sports exists in a grey area in Florida: DFS is not explicitly legal, but it also isn’t explicitly illegal.
The Sunshine State houses a complicated gambling market. This situation means that officially legalizing DFS faces an uphill climb.
Most states feature regulated daily fantasy or at least haven’t taken a divisive view on the matter. Only a handful of states have actually banned DFS.
Florida falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. The government has never taken a stance against daily fantasy sports, but history suggests that the activity could be illegal.
A 1991 opinion from then-Attorney General Robert Butterworth stated that any type of paid-entry fantasy sports is illegal under Florida law.
Butterworth was offering an opinion on season-long leagues. After all, DFS didn’t even exist at the time.
Florida isn’t the only state that leans on a dated AG opinion concerning daily fantasy. Louisiana rested on a 1991 statement from its AG, who noted that fantasy contests involving 1-900 numbers should be illegal. Voters in Louisiana, though, approved the legalization of DFS in 2018, and lawmakers finalized rules and regulations in December 2020 in hopes of launching DFS in time for the 2021 football season.
For Florida, a lack of clarity has ignited confusion among both gamblers and operators. Countless Floridians play DFS without incident, even though it might be unlawful under Butterworth’s opinion.
Some operators left the state when legal challenges arose across America in the mid-2010s. Others continue serving Florida until further notice.
Playing DFS in this state isn’t necessarily legal. Florida doesn’t carve out any exemptions for daily fantasy in the section of its constitution, Statute 849.14, that defines unlawful gambling.
However, the precedent is that the state doesn’t care if you play DFS. There have been no noteworthy instances of someone getting arrested for playing daily fantasy sports in Florida. If anything, the government would go after operators before the players. Even in that instance, there has been no such action to date.
Ideally, lawmakers would offer clarification on whether DFS is permitted in Florida, although many state residents continue to enjoy daily fantasy in the absence of such clarity.
By explicitly legalizing fantasy sports, the state could also create an additional revenue stream from taxed revenue and licensing fees.
DraftKings and FanDuel – the two big industry heavyweights – are both available in Florida. They’ve operated in the Sunshine State for years and dominate its daily fantasy sports scene.
Some operators left the market in 2015 when a federal grand jury convened in Florida to discuss whether DFS sites were breaking the law.
Nothing came from this event, but the situation was enough to convince Yahoo to exit the state.
FanDuel and DraftKings remain committed to this market, though, and continue to be the only major operators. Daily fantasy players can also participate via FantasyDraft.
The Sunshine State offers a standard mix of contests that can be found in many other states.
Here’s a brief description of the available games:
Florida DFS sites take a 10% cut from entry fees in most contests. This amount is standard across the industry.
Tournaments with guaranteed prize pools consistently draw the most players. Some of these events offer six- and seven-figure prize pools.
You can look forward to playing contests across a broad range of sports in Florida.
Here are the available categories:
Multiple leagues can be available within each sport. For example, NFL and CFL contests might be listed within a site’s football section.
Major leagues like the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL draw most of the daily fantasy action. College basketball and football are also popular.
The lack of regulated DFS in Florida isn’t due to limited effort. Politicians have proposed multiple daily fantasy bills over the years.
In 2021, one such amendment to a sports betting bill emerged and caused plenty of consternation within the DFS world.
Representatives from FanDuel and DraftKings spoke in front of the Florida legislature, highlighting a variety of issues within the proposal. Among them:
In addition to pushback from the two DFS giants, the fantasy trade and lobbying Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association also criticized the bill, which was ultimately withdrawn.
Afterward, Senate President Wilton Simpson noted that the renegotiated compact between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida does legalize fantasy sports contests. Because of this, lawmakers could readdress DFS in 2022 and “clarify if necessary,” as Simpson put it.
Many daily fantasy players are content with the current situation in Florida. They enjoy access to the largest sites and are seemingly in the clear to play.
However, a regulated industry would provide more benefits to players and the state. Here are the key advantages to look for if Florida regulates the activity.
The good news is that nobody is getting arrested in Florida for playing daily fantasy. Furthermore, the state hasn’t challenged DraftKings or FanDuel for operating within its boundaries.
Nevertheless, a clear legal status would make things easier. And it would for sure provide confirmation that DFS is indeed safe to play.
DraftKings and FanDuel pay taxes to Florida and any other state in which they operate. However, in a regulated market, the government could also collect licensing fees.
The price for licensing varies by state. For example, Virginia charges a $50,000 fee, while Maine requires just $2,500. Due to its size, Florida would command something closer to Virginia.
The state could also opt for a higher tax rate over licensing fees. New York, for instance, requires DFS sites to pay 15% of the revenue they make within their state.
In any case, Florida would earn more than the standard tax rate that daily fantasy operators currently pay.
Yahoo and some smaller sites exited Florida amid controversy over the industry late in 2015. They have yet to come back because nothing has changed from a legal standpoint.
If the government legalizes DFS, some of these operators might be encouraged to return. This will be especially likely if Florida’s licensing fees or taxes aren’t too high.
More operators would give players additional options – and more companies paying taxes and fees to the state.
Many casual gamblers don’t play DFS because of the unclear legal status. A regulated environment would bring the industry out into the open.
Operators could work with more mainstream advertising outlets. In turn, they would attract some of the casual crowd that doesn’t currently play. All of this would help operators offer bigger events within the state and beyond.