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Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018

FANTASY SPORTS BETTING

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Are you ready?

Well, if you don’t have a clue what fantasy sports are, then your answer is probably a big “what?” If you are one of the thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of sports fans who love to “wager,” not gamble, on sports games, then you are probably all in.

In fact, you may be saying what’s the big deal – I am already in several pools with monetary awards.

And if you have lost sleep worrying about going to jail over your favorite hobby of trying to beat “the spread,” on Nov. 6 you will definitely want to vote “yes” on the Louisiana Fantasy Sports Contests Act.

Fantasy sports are widespread across the nation, including Louisiana. In fantasy football leagues, contestants create teams by “drafting” players to fill out different positions on their rosters. A contestant’s roster is comprised of players from different teams across the league. Each player scores points for their fantasy team during the week or over the course of a season based on player stats.

Contestants often pool money for prizes. There are several varieties of fantasy sports. Generally, the activity focuses on player performance rather than the outcomes of the games.

The legislation defines “fantasy sports contests” as simulation sports games played through the internet or mobile devices in which participants create teams based on the current rosters of actual amateur or professional sports teams and win prizes and awards.

The act was designed to prevent the authorization of fantasy sports contestants from allowing a way to bet on real-world sporting events. It specifically excludes fantasy games that are based on (a) the results of any real sports team or (b) the performance of any individual athletes in a real sporting event.

The votes are tabulated by each parish, and, thus, approval is by parish. Under this act, internet and mobile device fantasy sports contests would be permitted in any parish that votes for it.

But guess what? State laws and regulations must first be adopted before these contests become legal. This means sports junkies will be held in “betting suspense” pending favorable action by the Louisiana Legislature next year (hopefully in regular session). After that, the Gaming Control Board must establish regulations for enforcement by the Louisiana State Police.

The author of the statewide proposition pitched legalizing fantasy sports as a way to raise money for Louisiana without increasing traditional taxes. The new law does not deal with what fees or taxes fantasy sports entities might pay the state. All other forms of legal gambling in Louisiana are taxed at relatively high rates.

The ballot proposal is silent on whether “traditional” fantasy sport leagues, usually played between friends and coworkers, are or will be legal if passed. The smartphone apps offer daily fantasy sports games played against strangers, rather than season-long leagues. The apps enable fans to play multiple games and spend money more efficiently than traditional sports setups.

Fantasy sports games are legal in Louisiana if no wagering is involved. Several websites such as ESPN and Yahoo allow people to sign up for fantasy sports for no charge and without any related prizes for winning.

Those that support fantasy sports online betting argue that people already bet on fantasy football and similar games. Parish approval allows for regulation by state and local government as well as additional government income. Participants in the approved fantasy contest will have appeal rights for complaints.

Opponents of legalizing online fantasy sports betting argue that this is an expansion of gambling in the state — plain and simple, no matter how it is tagged. Gambling contributes to financial and family issues which increase governmental costs to society which should not be encouraged.

For those who want to gamble, then Draftking, Fanduel and other online sites are not currently available for Louisiana residents. Other states that do not allow this internet gambling are Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Washington state.

Nationally, sports betting was illegal for many years except for a few states like Nevada. In May 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal ban on sports betting was unconstitutional. The ruling that the ban violated the rights of states opened sports betting for all other states.

The sports fantasy bill does not address fantasy betting in casinos or other locations on actual sports events. The Supreme Court decision opened the door to this type of gambling. This law does not address this style of wagering, so more legislative action can be expected in the next session.

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) is included in the parish ballot proposal. DFS is a subset of fantasy sports games played across a short period of time.

Currently, fantasy sports games featuring an entry fee and prizes are illegal in Louisiana. Additionally, all online gambling is illegal in this state. All this could change next year, depending on the votes in each parish.

John E. Settle Jr. has been a resident of Shreveport since January 1977. His articles appear regularly in local publications. He can be reached at 742-5513 or e-mail to: secretary@jesettle.com.

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