wjxt logo

Local lawmaker worries new gaming commission could target fantasy sports

Photo does not have a caption

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis has received the implementing legislation for the new 30-year Seminole Compact and is expected to sign it into law in the coming days.

While lawmakers passed the compact, not everything they had attempted to achieve in the three-day special session crossed the finish line.

An effort to legalize and regulate fantasy sports stalled out.

Lawmakers proposed allowing Floridians aged 21 and up to compete in fantasy sports leagues for professional, but not college teams.

The industry wanted to include college sports and set the age limit at 18 and up.

“There are hundreds of thousands of 18, 19, 20-year-olds in Florida who are playing fantasy sports legally, happily, enjoying it, having a good time. You pass this bill and they would not be allowed to do it anymore,” said Scott Ward, a lobbyist for Draft Kings.

In the end, a deal couldn’t be worked out.

Even without the legislation, an estimated three million Floridians currently compete in fantasy sports leagues.

State Senator Travis Hutson, who sponsored the fantasy sports bill, is worried with the passage of legislation creating a statewide gaming commission, fantasy sports operators could now find themselves at risk.

“You now have a fantasy contest happening that’s not licensed under the state. So I’m worried the gaming commission could go in there and shut them down,” said Hutson.

He said it’s an issue he plans to address in the next legislative session.

“If the commission in 2022 decides to look at unlicensed activity, this could fall within it. It’s a loophole that I want to try and close,” said Hutson.

In testimony before the Senate appropriations committee this week, Ward was asked if Draft Kings was concerned about potential persecution from the new gaming commission.

The lobbyist responded that fantasy sports are not gambling, so the company feels it’s operating within the law.

Lawmakers have been trying for at least six years to legalize fantasy sports in Florida.

The failure to pass legislation this year again leaves them in a legal gray area.

Seven states have outright banned the fantasy leagues.