Maryland Panel to Discuss Daily Fantasy Sports

Maryland lawmakers should clarify during this session whether daily betting on fantasy sports is allowed under the law, attorneys for the state recommended Friday.

The lawyers were responding to questions from state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who sought legal advice about 2012 legislation allowing traditional fantasy betting among groups of friends. He also asked whether the measure should have gone on the ballot for voters to decide, because of a 2007 constitutional amendment in which voters decided to allow slot machine gambling in the state.

In their 22-page advice letter, the attorneys called it a complicated question, but said betting on daily fantasy sports should have been referred to the electorate for a vote. However, they wrote that a number of questions "are close calls: none is clear and some involve statutory language and legislative history that conflict in critical respects."

"Further complicating matters is the fact that daily fantasy sports have only emerged in the last few years and there are few judicial opinions and none in Maryland that address this new form of fantasy sports," wrote Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe and Adam Snyder, chief counsel of opinions and advice.

They also wrote that they believe traditional forms of betting on fantasy sports that do not involve commercial gaming within the meaning of the law are authorized under the 2012 measure. The 2012 law was largely tailored to apply to small social groups that play all season long, not the new industry that regulators in other states have been grappling with in recent months.

Daily fantasy sports allow people to deposit money in accounts and create fantasy rosters of sports teams by selecting real players. They then compete to win money against other contestants based on their players' statistical performances.

Companies like Boston-based DraftKings and New York-based FanDuel contend their websites aren't gambling, are legal and were exempted from federal online gambling prohibition in 2006.

The attorneys for the state said they could not predict with certainty whether a Maryland court would determine whether either traditional fantasy betting or daily fantasy betting are games of chance for purposes of the law, but added, ``there can be no question that chance is an element in fantasy sports.''

The lawyers recommended that "the legislature squarely take up the issue this session and clarify whether daily fantasy sports were authorized in Maryland"

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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