LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - People who bet a little money on fantasy football could have legal protection soon.
House Bill 2250, sponsored by state Representative Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould) would codify the legalization and regulation of fantasy sports betting.
“I do play fantasy football,” Gazaway said Tuesday. “I’ve never played in the DraftKings, or the FanDuel, or any of those kinds of things.”
A lot of Arkansans do play on DraftKings and FanDuel, the two biggest sites for daily fantasy sports. Daily fantasy sports, which features head-to-head games and large tournaments, is a new branch of fantasy sports, but is where the majority of corporately-organized wagers take place. Many municipalities have struggled with the legality of it; five states do not allow residents to play daily fantasy sports, while the two companies voluntarily restrict access from five more. New York, for example, attempted to ban the games, and a large public outcry ensued.
“It’s something that’s already occurring, and there’s not really any clear guidance on whether or not it’s legal,” Gazaway said about his intention for pursuing this legislation, “and so this was just an attempt to make sure that it is legal in the state of Arkansas.”
In fantasy sports, the competitor picks a group of real-life players, and bets that they will perform better than someone else’s group of players. So-called “traditional” fantasy sports game run the course of a season, while daily fantasy pays out every day. It has grown into a multi-billion-dollar business in just a few years.
“People are interested in sports, and that helps bring an extra element for some people who enjoy football and enjoy the fantasy sports aspect of things,” Gazaway explained.
In exchange for legal recognition as a game of skill, the state would tax fantasy sports companies. DraftKings, FanDuel, and other fantasy sports providers would have to pay 8 percent of the profit they make from Arkansans.
Critics argue that fantasy sports are a game of chance, since it is impossible to predict how athletes will play, no matter how much sports knowledge a person may have. Critics believe, if entry fees and prizes are involved, it should be regulated like a casino game.
“It’s not like a casino,” Gazaway stated. “It’s not going to attract all the other negative things that typically go along with that sort of thing. This is a thing that folks do on Sunday afternoon, you know, when they get home from church, and watching a game.”
The staff of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration is still calculating the financial impact of the bill. According to one recent study, daily fantasy sports is approximately a $2.6 billion industry in North America. Because of the number of states where residents are not allowed to play, Arkansas’ share of the market could be well over $10 million per year, meaning that the tax would bring millions of dollars to the state.
HB2250 will next be up for discussion in the House Rules Committee on Wednesday.