Daily Fantasy Sports Spotlighted Once Again In Florida

In 2016, daily fantasy sports (DFS) was successfully legalized and regulated in eight states. Now, with 2017 barely two months old, two daily fantasy sports bills will be the focus once again of policy makers in the Florida legislature. The Senate Gambling Bill, SB 8, will address comprehensive gaming legislation in Florida. One aspect of the bill, introduced on January 12, 2017 by Senator Bill Galvano, looks at DFS regulation. A second bill, House Bill, HB 149 – An Act Relating to Fantasy Contests and Fantasy Contest Operators – was introduced on the 4th of January 2017.

Concerning bill SB 8, it will look to correct a federal statutory reference of “Fantasy Contests” and create the “Fantasy Contest Amusement Act.” Consumer protection issues will be a priority under the new statute. Also under the act, fantasy contests will be specifically called out and defined as a game of skill and not one of chance. Defined as games of skill, the winning outcome of a fantasy contest will have to unambiguously reflect a player’s knowledge and skill.

Fantasy contests will be defined as either commercial on non-commercial. The distinction being that non-commercial contests will not be subject to licensing fees and taxes. SB 8 further establishes rules concerning prizes awarded in a fantasy contest. The value of a prize, whether it be monetary or any other, must be defined and disclosed in advance of a game and cannot be determined by participation rates.

Under the “Fantasy Contest Amusement Act,” an Office of Amusements will be created and controlled by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). The DBPR will oversee licensing for daily fantasy operators. Large scale operators will be charged an initial license application fee of $500,000. Licenses must be renewed yearly for $100,000. Smaller scale operators will pay a license fee not to exceed 10% of their total entry fees collected less the amount of awarded cash prizes.

The Office of Amusements will be responsible for the enforcing and administering of all associated laws pertaining to fantasy contests. License applications must be settled within a three month time frame. All license applicants must be vetted. In order to ensure customer payment protection, all licensees must provide evidence of a $1m surety bond to the state. Operators must carry out a yearly third party audit and must also keep accurate records and file a quarterly report with the Office of Amusements. The Office will be empowered to issue penalties to fantasy operators in violation of set laws under SB 8. Violators will be subject to a maximum penalty of $5000 for each offence. A maximum of $100,000 can be levied for aggregated penalties at a time.

The second bill, House Bill, HB 149, An Act Relating to Fantasy Contests and Fantasy Contest Operators, addresses many of the same regulatory objectives as the Senate bill, although it does not set operator licensing requirements or fees.

Proponents of daily fantasy sports in the Florida legislature have been active since 2015 in their efforts to pass a comprehensive consumer protection bill for fantasy contests. State Senator Joe Negron and state Representative Matt Gaetz initially proposed a bill in 2015, but it was never acted upon. With two new bills having already been introduced into the Florida legislature this early in the new year, and given the present favorable climate for online gambling in the U.S., Florida stands a good chance of getting daily fantasy sports legislation passed in 2017.

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