Alabama attorney general decides to shut down fantastic sports venues

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Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is considering shutting down fantasy sports in the state.

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – After prolonged silence, the Alabama Attorney General has declared that online fantasy sports betting sites are illegal under state law.

Popular sites DraftKings and FanDuel have received cease and desist letters from Strange and have until May 1 to end all paid contests in the state of Alabama.

“As Attorney General, it is my duty to uphold Alabama law, including the laws against illegal gambling,” Attorney General Strange said in a statement. “Daily Fantastic Sports Operators claim they are operating legally under Alabama law. However, daily paid fantasy sports competitions are in fact illegal gambling under Alabama law. “

Strange says that in Alabama, an activity constitutes illegal gambling if a person bets something of value on a contest of chance, even when it comes to skill, in order to win a prize.

More than 700,000 Alabamians – about 20% of the state’s population over the age of 18 – played fantastic sports last year, the vast majority participating in various NFL and NASCAR fantasy leagues.

This is how it works:

A-season’s Fantasy Leagues are often made up of groups of friends who play for free on websites like ESPN and Yahoo. The Daily and Weekly Fantastic Games, however, begin with team leaders paying an entry fee – ranging from 25 cents to $ 1,000 – to take on opponents – ranging from tens to hundreds – for a prize pool that can sometimes be up to $ 2 million. Team leaders bid on real players to build a roster, then win or lose based on how their fantastic players perform in real games.

The debate over regulating fantasy sports boils down to whether or not they are considered games of chance or skill. Strange argues that this is clearly a contest of chance, but online fantasy sports advocates say there’s a lot more to it.

Thousands of experts compile and analyze data, and managers of great teams consume as much data as possible in the hopes of being one step ahead of the competition. It is for this reason that top fantasy leagues regularly see their most skilled players win.

Many managers of fantasy football teams, for example, not only take into account surface-level stats like receiving, passing and running on the ground, but also much more nuanced considerations. These can include how each player has historically played against the team they are up against; how the weather can impact the output of each player; whether a player can be more motivated against a rival; and even what time of day the game takes place. In paid games, these more in-depth considerations could also include which players are relatively under or overrated, depending on what other players are coming up with to have them on their squad.

Advocates of fantasy sports point out the similarities between their competitions and fishing or golf tournaments. Players pay an entry fee before playing. There are certain elements of chance involved. For example, the weather can have a different impact on your round of golf compared to an opponent with a different tee time, and sometimes the fish in some areas of a lake bite more than in others. And yet golfers like Jordan Spieth and anglers like Aaron Martens are winning tournament after tournament. The same can be said of the best fantasy football leagues. The best players win statistically more often than their competition.

RELATED: There is a lot more skill than luck in fantasy sports (opinion)

Senate Bill 114 – and an associated House Bill (HB56) – would make it clear that fantasy sports are legal in Alabama and “would establish the Fantasy Contests Act to regulate the operation of fantasy or mock contests in the state. “.

Fantasy sports companies support regulation, which clarifies their legitimacy in the state and creates a transparent system of accountability.

But some interest groups in Montgomery are pushing for more onerous regulations that would make it difficult for the fantasy sports industry – which generated a staggering $ 4.6 billion in revenue in 2015 – to operate in Alabama. .

The lawsuit, if passed, would thwart AG Strange’s actions and protect the legal operation of online fantasy sports companies in the state.

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