A year and a half after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion labeling certain fantasy sports sites as illegal gambling, the legal landscape for fantasy sports fans in the state remains murky and is expected to remain so. .
Lawmakers ended their legislative session on Monday without passing measures to make it clear that these paid sites are legal in the state.
“I have literally never seen something have so much support at every level, from the most conservative to the most liberal, the big and the small,” State Representative Richard PeÃ±a Raymond, D- said on Wednesday. Laredo, after leading the charge on the matter at Texas House.
In a non-binding notice in January 2016, Paxton equated premium paid sports sites with online gambling, which is illegal, arguing that they involve “partial luck”. The advisory did not target free-to-play fantasy sports sites – like those hosted by Yahoo, ESPN, and the NFL – and instead focused on paid sites like DraftKings and FanDuel, which allow Texans to make money based of their virtual teams.
Following the notice, FanDuel stopped offering paid contests in Texas. DraftKings has filed a lawsuit against Paxton, asking a court to make a declaratory judgment that fantasy sports websites are permitted under Texas law.
Raymond’s bill, House Bill 1457, would have classified fantasy sports as games of skill and not of chance.
âWhen you read the law, it is clear that it is already legal. What I was trying to do with my legislation was to make it perfectly clear, âRaymond said Wednesday.
In an April hearing on Raymond’s bill before the House Licensing and Administration Committee, gambling opponents took issue with the idea that sites like DraftKings and FanDuel are games of skill.
“We believe this legislation will allow predatory gambling in our state, targeting a whole new generation of young people in gambling and making them addicted and spending a lot of their money, to the detriment of not only themselves but others. dear to them, âBenjamin Wright, a pastor with the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, told the committee.
Although his bill never made it to the House, Raymond passed a motion in the House in May to add similar language to a Senate bill that was being negotiated between the two rooms. The motion passed with 119 to 25 votes, signaling that a majority in the House agreed with Raymond on the issue, but no language related to fantasy sports was incorporated into the final version of the bill.
Still, Raymond remains optimistic, even though the session is over. The only way for lawmakers to approach the issue before the next regular session in 2019 is for Governor Greg Abbott to add it to the agenda for a special session.
“I was disappointed that the Senate did not agree, but speaking of sport, as Yogi Berra said -” It is not over until it is over “- and it is not ‘t is not finished yet, I think. We’ll see what the governor says, âRaymond said.
The Texas Fantasy Sports Alliance, a group backed by FanDuel and DraftKings, plans to continue lobbying lawmakers on the issue.
“Four million Texans play fantastic sports in Texas every year, and they’re all disappointed that the Texas Legislature failed to pass sensible fantasy sports legislation introduced to the Texas House and Senate this session. “said Scott Dunaway, spokesperson for the alliance. “Fantasy sports are not illegal in our state. Fantasy players want it to be enshrined in law.”
Despite the volatile legal situation for fantasy sports in Texas, the National Fantasy Football Convention still plans to host its first national conference in Dallas next month.
Andy Alberth, CEO of the National Fantasy Football Convention, said at least 30 former and current Dallas Cowboys players are expected to attend, including former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is an investor in the company.
This is the organization’s third attempt to host the convention. It was first scheduled to take place in Las Vegas in 2015 and then in Pasadena, Calif. The following year, but both were closed amid the NFL’s decline.
Last month, the legislature honored Romo. His visit to Austin led some to believe he was going to lobby for Raymond’s bill, but a scheduled press conference was called off, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Alberth noted that the convention does not promote paid daily fantasy football, which Paxton took a close look at.
âIt’s more about becoming a better fantasy player throughout the season, and these are the leagues where you play with your friends that you grew up with or in the office,â Alberth said.
Still, when it comes to legality issues, Alberth said it was âa game of skill, because people spend a lot of time becoming good fantasy players. It’s not something you can do and just get lucky.
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