Fantasy sports keeps tabs on online gambling

The fantasy sports industry has hired lobbyists to keep their eyes on legislation that would make online gambling illegal across the country but would leave competitions with fantasy teams and leagues untouched.

According to a recently released federal lobbying form, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association brought on the law firm Dentons for help on “issues that may affect the fantasy sports industry and legislation related to gaming."

Specifically, the group is focusing on a bill from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would ban online gambling, though some states have begun to warm to the practice.

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While the bill would make poker, blackjack and other online games illegal, it would not criminalize fantasy football or other fantasy sports competitions, which are currently legal.

Though the trade group has retained the law firm to watch the bill, it says it is remaining neutral and is neither supporting nor opposing the measure.

The Chicago-based trade group, which says it represents more than 170 members, including CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo and other companies large and small, has tried to distance its industry from online gambling.

Fantasy sports are based on skill and knowledge, it claims, not luck. Plus, people play the games for the fun of it, not necessarily to win money.

“Fantasy sports leagues are games of skill. Managers must take into account a myriad of statistics, facts and game theory in order to be competitive,” the organization said on its website.

“Fantasy sports players are motivated to enter the hobby for reasons that have nothing to do with money or prizes," it added.

The bill from Chaffetz and Graham, called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, would reverse a 2011 Justice Department decision that opened the doors for states to permit online gambling in addition to horse racing, fantasy sports and other games, which were already permitted under the law. Since the 2011 decision, three states have legalized some form of online gambling, and others have considered following suit.

Online gambling opponents have rushed to support Chaffetz’s and Graham’s legislation. At the top of the list is casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has hired multiple firms and a former member of Congress to lobby in support of the bill. 

This story has been corrected to note that the trade group is remaining neutral on the bill.