By: Wayne Hicks
The popularity of daily fantasy sports websites is spreading rapidly throughout the state of Maryland, where more than 200,000 people are actively participating. Daily fantasy sports games allow participants to draft professional athletes on imaginary teams and compete against others often wagering money. Despite its popularity among users, Maryland legislators fear that the money wagering features could result in residents getting “in over their head and risking more than they can afford….”
Two bills recently went before the Maryland House of Delegates regarding the legal status of daily fantasy sports competition in Maryland. Neither of the bills were passed by the state legislature. The first bill, Senate Bill 976, which was introduced on February 11, 2016, proposed that the state should regulate daily fantasy sports to a referendum. More specifically, the bill stated that daily fantasy participants would be required to register with a licensed operator, be at least 21 years old to play, and the operators of daily fantasy leagues would be required to conduct the games in a manner consistent with regulations set forth by the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission. The second bill, Senate Bill 980, which was introduced on February 12, 2016, proposed an outright ban on daily fantasy leagues if the voters chose not to approve the referendum.
These two recently proposed bills were introduced to the Senate following an advisory opinion that was issued by Attorney General Brian Frosh. The advisory opinion described daily fantasy leagues as an expansion of commercial gaming in Maryland, and therefore daily fantasy operators should be subject to voter referendum. In this opinion, Attorney General Frosh was referencing the law passed in 2012, House Bill 750, which states that fantasy competitions are exempt from Maryland gaming prohibitions. Therefore, the two bills introduced to the senate appear to have been measures taken by legislators who supported Attorney General Frosh’s opinion that the 2012 law provided too much leeway for fantasy gaming in Maryland.
Although it appears that daily fantasy sports operators have won, it still remains highly likely that the 2012 law will be revisited given the opposition it has received for providing a blanket exemption for fantasy league operators. However, the inevitable attempts to amend the law will be met with opposition from supporters of daily fantasy sports, who embraced Maryland’s decision to pass the 2012 law. Supporters and various organizations have provided statements suggesting that, at the very least, the Maryland Senate should educate themselves on the growing trend and strive for regulations that support the business rather than closing it off entirely.
Wayne Hicks is a third-year day student at the University of Baltimore. He serves as a Staff Editor for the UB Law Forum. His legal interests include general civil practice and criminal defense. He can be reached at Wayne.Hicks@ubalt.edu. You can view his LinkedIn here.