Florida House Considers Bill to Regulate Fantasy Sports

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The Florida Historic Capitol sits near the 22-story New Capitol building, which together are part of the Capitol Complex on July 26, 2023 in Tallahassee, Florida.

It appears fantasy may soon be a reality in Florida.

Florida’s proposed HB 679 would regulate and make fantasy sports contests fully legal. If passed, this bill, introduced by State Representative Jason Shoaf, will define rules for these contests, ensuring transparency and consumer protection.

The legislation highlights key requirements, including the disclosure of prizes before entry, which would promote transparency. It also emphasizes that fantasy sports outcomes should depend on participants’ knowledge and skill, setting it apart from traditional gambling and aligning it with skill-based competitions.

This proposal follows a cease-and-desist letter sent by Florida’s gaming commission to certain fantasy operators in the state. In recent months, states nationwide, including California, Michigan, and New York, have shown a growing interest in regulating fantasy contests. The California attorney general’s office is even considering whether current laws prohibit such contests, while regulators in Michigan and New York have banned pick ’em-style contests.

Currently, there is no regulation of fantasy sports in Florida despite a robust market headlined by prominent operators that include FanDuel, DraftKings, and PrizePicks.

What Does HB 679 Call For?

HB 679 clearly says that a “fantasy sports contest” is a game where people pay to create and manage a fantasy team of pro athletes, with the chance to win cash prizes. The bill sets clear rules for winning in fantasy sports, ruling out factors like:

  • Scores
  • Point spreads
  • Performance of a single team

It also prohibits individual performances in single events, including:

  • Poker
  • Card games
  • Collegiate or youth sports events

This helps define the scope of fantasy sports contests and prevents potential misuse. Also, no ads or promotional content can show pictures or use language that depicts traditional casino games like slot machines, cards, dice, or craps.

If HB 679 becomes law, some fantasy sports contests would be exempt from certain gambling laws, giving legitimacy to an industry that was in a legal gray area before.

Opponents Say the Bill is Missing Some Language

Opponents of the bill claim it misses the mark because of what it doesn’t include.

They say the bill falls short in various aspects, including not mandating background checks on operators. Another objection was that there are no rules on whether games must be played in person or online and that the State lacks protection and incentives due to the absence of licensing requirements, fees, or taxes on operators.

They also point out that the bill lacks age restrictions, geolocating provisions, or responsible gaming requirements.

The suggested effective date of July 1, 2024, points to a possible new era for fantasy sports fans in Florida, officially recognizing and regulating fantasy sports as part of the sports betting and entertainment industry.

The proposed bill is the first step. Now we’ll have to wait for the bill to make its way through committee stops and watch as amendments are added or voted down.

The bill is being called a careful approach to the rising popularity and economic opportunities in fantasy sports. It aims to find a middle ground, ensuring both consumer protection and the growth of the industry.

We’ll see if that’s enough to make this long-time fantasy in Florida, a reality.