Daily Fantasy Sports Bill Introduced in Ohio

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Ohio State Senators Dave Burke and Cliff Hite introduced a bill last week that would authorize the Ohio Casino Control Commission to regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS), making the games explicitly legal in the state. DFS operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel are currently active the state and happily accept Ohio customers, but legal gray areas are never fun and only serve to keep the possibility of legal troubles open. SB 375 would solve that, removing any sort of question about the legality of fantasy sports in Ohio.

The bill defines a “fantasy contest” as follows:

(1) The value of all prizes and awards offered to winning fantasy contest players is established and made known to the players in advance of the contest.
(2) All winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the fantasy contest players and are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of managing rosters of athletes whose performance directly corresponds with the actual performance of athletes in professional sports competitions.
(3) Winning outcomes are not based on randomized or historical events, or on the score, point spread, or any performance of any single actual team or combination of teams or solely on any single performance of an individual athlete or player in any single actual event.

For those who have kept up on fantasy sports legal news over the years, this will look very familiar. It is for all intents and purposes the portion of the UIGEA that carved out a spot for fantasy sports, essentially creating the daily fantasy industry. Many states have used this definition in their own legislation.

SB 375 also prohibits the usual types of people from playing: those under the age of 18, DFS employees or family members (from playing on their own site), those who self-restricted, people from states where fantasy sports are explicitly illegal, and athletes and referees from the real-life games that are tracked by the fantasy contests.

The initial licensing application fee would be $30,000 with a $30,000 renewal fee every three years. Legislation in some other states made such fees so high that all but the largest sites (read: DraftKings, FanDuel, maybe Yahoo!) would be unable to afford it, but at first glance, $30,000 seems doable for most operators.

Recently, daily fantasy operators made moves to try to make their gaming environments more friendly to new and casual players. One thing they did was identify “highly experienced” players in the contest lobby so that lesser-skilled players could have the opportunity to stay away from games with them when possible. Beginner contests were also added. In the Ohio legislation, the Commission would actually be able to define what constitutes a highly experienced and beginning player; one would assume that the operators would then have to mold their offerings around that. The Commission, however, would not be permitted to establish the basic rules of contests, such as how the scoring systems work.

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