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Pre-Filed Florida Bill Would Make Fantasy Legal

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One Florida lawmaker is pushing a bill that would continue the latest trend in gambling and sports — new legislation or regulation covering fantasy sports, which traditionally has been considered gray in the state.

HB 679, introduced last week by Rep. Jason Shoaf, would put guardrails around fantasy, but contrary to the current trend, it would apparently legalize pick’em involving multiple players’ performances as well as traditional fantasy contests. The pre-filed bill does not include a proposed tax rate.

Proposing to make fantasy fully legal and regulated, the bill comes months after Florida’s gaming commission sent a cease-and-desist letter to some fantasy operators in the state. Through the fall, states across the nation have begun to take an increased interest in how fantasy contests are regulated. Most recently, the California attorney general’s office began contemplating whether or not existing law prohibits fantasy contests while regulators in Michigan and New York banned pick’em-style contests.

Florida sports betting has been a major storyline for the past few months, but particularly this week as the Seminole Tribe fully launched digital wagering Tuesday with its Hard Rock Bet platform. In addition to the sports betting app, the tribe began the tiered opening of its retail sportsbooks Thursday with a celebrity-laden event at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, near Fort Lauderdale.

The tribe also began rolling out craps and roulette in its brick-and-mortar locations, as allowed by its 2021 compact with the state. That compact is under fire in federal and state court. The tribe is well within the bounds of the compact and the law to begin offering in-person wagering and ball and dice games, but its digital sports betting monopoly is being challenged.

No single-player props, college fantasy contests

Shoaf’s bill would bring fantasy sports operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, PrizePicks, and Underdog Sports into a regulated environment while outlining what kind of fantasy contests would be allowed. It states that any contest is required to consider the “statistical results of the performance” of more than one player.

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The text also specifies, “All winning outcomes [must] reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the fantasy sports contest participant,” and contest prizes and awards must be “disclosed” before a contest begins.

The bill would not allow for fantasy contests involving college or high school players, “cannot be based on score, point spread, or performance of a team or combination of teams,” may not be based on the performance of a single individual in a single event or a parimutuel event, and cannot be a game of poker.

In addition, no graphics, language of other advertising that includes a “depiction” of traditional casino games (slot machines, cards, dice, craps, etc.) would be allowed.

The bill calls for fantasy contests to be regulated as of July 1, 2024. The 2024 Florida legislative session begins Jan. 9.

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