Mississippi Legalizes Daily Fantasy Sports Competitions

Published July 18, 2016

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed into law a bill temporarily legalizing daily fantasy sports while lawmakers consider how to deal with the popular industry.

Daily fantasy sports services allow players to compete online by selecting professional athletes for fictional “fantasy” teams. Teams compete by comparing real-world performance statistics over an agreed-upon period. Teams with the best results often win prizes or cash.

In addition to legalizing daily fantasy sports until July 1, 2017, Senate Bill 2541 creates a state task force for studying and recommending how state lawmakers should regulate daily fantasy sports in the state.

The law requires the Fantasy Contest Task Force to begin meeting in July. It will be composed of lawmakers and government officials from the state’s Gaming Commission, Department of Revenue, the state attorney general’s office, the Mississippi Senate’s Judiciary Committee, and the state House Gaming Committee. The task force is required to report its findings and recommendations to lawmakers in October 2016.

‘A Game of Skill’

State Sen. Sean Tindell (R-Gulfport), the bill’s sponsor, says he wants to keep fantasy sports legal for Mississippi sports fans.

“People have been playing fantasy sports in the State of Mississippi for decades now,” Tindell said. “It’s something that my friends and I started doing in the late 1990s in college. Under federal gaming law, daily fantasy was excluded because it was considered to be a game of skill.”

Tindell says fantasy sports is not a form of gambling and shouldn’t be regulated as if it is.

“If you can explain to me the difference between fantasy sports and trading stock futures or derivatives, … well, I’ll bet you $100 you can’t,” Tindell said. “The reality is that it’s no different than taking the long or short position on stocks. You’re simply trying to evaluate the value of those stocks and that company, trying to determine where the stock price will go. It’s no different than fantasy sports.”

Lawmakers ‘Very Aggressive’ Now

Marc Edelman, an associate professor of law at Baruch College–City University of New York, says regulation of daily fantasy sports is a hot topic with state lawmakers.

“After a prolonged period of time in which states had overlooked legal questions about daily fantasy sports, in the past six months states have taken a very aggressive approach,” Edelman said.

Testing Their Luck

Edelman says state lawmakers have to decide whether winning a fantasy sports match is luck or skill.

“The question has come up regarding contests that require entry fees and prizes that relate to the prediction of performance of players over multiple real-world games,” Edelman said. “In most states, these contests will be deemed to be legal if these are games of skill and illegal if they’re games of chance.”

Jeff Reynolds ([email protected]) writes from Portland, Oregon.

Internet Info:

M. Christine Holleman, “Fantasy Football: Illegal Gambling or Legal Game of Skill,” North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology, February 14, 2007: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/fantasy-football-illegal-gambling-or-legal-game-skill/

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