Bill calls for regulation of fantasy sports

Contentious fight expected as popularity of games explodes in Ohio.

Here is a sure bet: the fight over how to regulate daily fantasy sports in Ohio will likely be long and contentious.

Already, two lawmakers are pushing different approaches.

State Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, introduced a bill Monday that would prohibit fantasy sports companies from taking an administrative fee off the top of the entry fees paid by players and would give regulation authority over the industry to the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Coley says for-profit betting pools — where all the wagers aren’t paid out as prizes — are already illegal under existing Ohio law.

But state Rep. Robert McColley, R-Napoleon, says fantasy sports leagues are not illegal games of chance because of the skill, research and analysis required to do well in the contests. He maintains that fantasy sports companies, such as FanDuel Inc. and DraftKings, Inc., take an administrative fee off the top to cover overhead and technology costs.

McColley said he plans to introduce a bill later this year that clears up ambiguities in state law.

“We want to be clear that fantasy sports is a form of entertainment,” he said.

Marc La Vorgna, spokesman for FanDuel and DraftKings, said in a written statement:“Sen. Coley is completely on an island – isolated from Ohioans who love fantasy sports and isolated from his caucus where he has no support for his attempt to ban fantasy sports. Rep. McColley is on the right path, with legislation to protect fantasy sports. Fantasy sports are legal in Ohio, but the state’s applicable statutes were enacted before evolutions in technology and mobile apps, and before the explosion in popularity of fantasy sports and they do need to be updated.”

Fantasy sports play — both daily and season-long — has been growing at a fast clip. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 57.4 million people ages 12 and up play in the U.S. and Canada. “Owners” assemble fantasy teams from the rosters of actual college or professional sports teams and follow how their team does over an entire season or a shorter window, such as a week or individual game.

Fantasy sports websites operate contests in two ways: no fees and no prizes for the winners or entry fees and cash prizes for the winners. FanDuel and DraftKings retain a percentage of the fees, depending on what kind of contest it is.

FanDuel and DraftKings are pushing Ohio and other states to declare fantasy sports legal.

“Just this year, eight states have already passed laws affirming millions of fantasy sports fans can continue to play. These policies have been vetted, proven and established and we hope Ohio is the next state on the list,” La Vorgna said.

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