Delaware panel mulls legality of fantasy sports

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Rep. Charles Potter (D-Wilmington) chairs the House Gaming and Parimutuels Committee meeting (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — The House Gaming & Parimutuels Committee met Wednesday for the first time in the new year, receiving an overview on daily fantasy sports and briefly discussing its legality.

Daily fantasy allows users to play online fantasy sports weekly or daily, without the “season-long commitment” of normal fantasy, as daily fantasy commercials often remind audiences.

Many states are investigating the legality of daily fantasy. Congress also has looked into whether the games should be categorized as gambling. Most forms of online gambling, with exceptions for games of skill, are prohibited in the United States.

According to Delaware Finance Secretary Tom Cook, Attorney General Matt Denn and the Department of Justice are looking into the subject. Mr. Cook said he hopes an official opinion is issued soon.

Delaware is one of four states allowed to operate sports betting, thanks to a grandfather clause in a 1992 federal law. The exact impact that has on daily fantasy’s legality in Delaware will be determined by the attorney general’s office, Mr. Denn said.

The Texas attorney general ruled Tuesday that daily fantasy games contradict state law, adding the state to a growing list banning daily fantasy sports.

On Wednesday representatives for DraftKings, one of two preeminent daily fantasy companies, gave an overview of the game, arguing it is based on skill with a minimal element of chance involved. Under those criteria, it would not

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Delaware Secretary of Finance Tom Cook speaks before the House Gaming and Parimutuels Committee inside the House chamber at Legislative Hall about the legality of fantasy sports.

violate federal law.

According to Sarah Koch, the company’s assistant director of government affairs, 30,000 Delawareans took part in daily fantasy last year, and 150,000 played fantasy sports.

Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington, said daily fantasy quickly is becoming accepted by some states and cannot be ignored, “whether we like it or not.”

“I think waiting for the attorney general’s opinion is probably a wise decision, but I will say that if the attorney general comes forward and says that it’s something we should be doing, it’s not something that in my belief that we should sit on,” she said. “I think it’s something that we should try and move forward with.”

Ms. Koch said DraftKings “would welcome a regulatory environment” that protects both players and the company.

Rep. Keeley accused the major American sports leagues of hypocrisy, noting they heavily lobbied against sports betting in Delaware but have supported daily fantasy.

With Wednesday’s hearing serving as an informational session, nothing was decided, and the subject of daily fantasy’s categorization as a game of chance or one of skills remains undetermined in Delaware for the time being.

After the 40-minute discussion on fantasy sports, casino lobbyist Gary Bloom requested an April hearing on adding casinos to the state.

“At the same time, we will be discussing and presenting (a) proposal for the existing racinos in the state, so that we can deal with all the gaming questions that are brought up,” he said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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