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Minnesota legislators consider regulating daily fantasy sports playing

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Paul Charchian, a fantasy sports advocate and host of a radio show on the topic, tells a Minnesota House committee Thursday, March 9, 2017, that the activity involves skill, so is not illegal gamblnig. With him is Rep. Tony Albright of Prior Lake, sponsor of a bill to clarify that fantasy sports play is legal. Don Davis / Forum News Service2 / 4
Minnesota state Rep. Brian Johnson of Cambridge sits behind a tangle of microphones Thursday, March 9, 2017, in a state House committee meeting that included fantasy sports regulation discussions. Don Davis / Forum News Service3 / 4
Minnesota state Rep. Kathy Lohmer of Stillwater works on paperwork while awaiting a Thursday, March 9, 2017, House committee hearing that included fantasy sports regulation discussion. Don Davis / Forum News Service4 / 4

ST. PAUL—Thousands of Minnesotans play daily fantasy sports, but it is not clear whether the activity is legal.

Bills in the Minnesota Legislature would list them legal as well as place regulations on operators of the games.

"It puts important guardrails around the industry," Scott Ward told a House committee Thursday, March 9, before lawmakers passed it on to another panel.

Ward, who represents fantasy sports juggernauts FanDuel and DraftKings, said 10 states have passed laws similar to what Minnesota lawmakers are considering.

The legislation by Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, is similar to one that the Minnesota House passed last year, but it did not reach the Senate end zone. The biggest difference, he said, is a stronger provision to keep youths younger than 18 from playing.

The bill affects daily fantasy sports, those in which only one game is played. It does not deal with season-long fantasy sports, in which a player puts together a virtual team to play an entire season.

While estimates put the number of Minnesotans taking part in all fantasy sports activities at a million, estimates for daily participants are 170,000. Paul Charchian, president of daily fantasy sports finance management company LeagueSafe, said Minnesota has more fantasy sports players per capita than any other states. "We all know people who play fantasy sports," added Charchian, who also hosts a fantasy sports radio show. "We play because it is fun and we can be a virtual (sports team) general manager." He said that killing the Albright bill would allow fantasy sports to continue as is, without regulation. House researchers say that whether daily fantasy sports are gambling under state and federal laws remains unclear. In a bill summary, researchers said: "Minnesota essentially prohibits wagering money on games of chance ... and sports bookmaking." Even opponents to Albright's bill said that the season-long version is more skill than gambling. But they said the daily type of game is luck.

Jake Grassel of Citizens Against Gambling Expansion told representatives that the daily game "is much like running a bookmaking company." Courts are beginning to rule that the daily games are gambling, he added.

Grassel said the online daily fantasy sports targets young people "who were born with cell phones in their hands."

Albright, who said he has played fantasy football, said he does not see any difference between daily and season-long sports.

"You still have to comprehend just what it is you are doing," he said,which involves days or weeks of research to pick players that can win virtual games.

Albright's bill establishes several regulations for daily fantasy sports, including requiring registration with the state, background checks for operators and regular audits of companies offering the sport. It also sets up consumer protections such as banning companies that run fantasy sports from playing the games, bans games in which winners are determined by scores of actual games, requires players to be paid within 72 hours and mandates that skill levels of players must be available to others.

Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, has a similar Senate bill.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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