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Daily Fantasy Sports Moving Forward in Florida

DFS: A proposal to formally legalize daily fantasy sports in Florida was approved easily in a state Senate committee on Thursday, even as the Seminole Tribe warns the measure could cost the state some gaming revenue.

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The proposed bill officially authorizes and sets out some rules for daily fantasy sports (prohibiting playing DFS using college, high school or youth team players, for example – though most major DFS sites don’t allow that anyway).

DraftKings and FanDuel, the two biggest DFS sites, currently allow players in Florida, but it’s legality is unsure. As of now, daily fantasy sports is completely unaddressed in state law, leaving it in a legal gray area. Lawmakers have tried to deal with it since 2015, but haven’t passed any legislation on the issue, even as more than 15 other states have moved to legalize the games, with some even moving to tax them.

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It is big business – the handle for DFS games was more than $3.2 billion last year. It’s believed about 3 million Florida residents play fantasy sports of some type.

The Florida bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Dana Young, cleared the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Thursday with an 8-1 vote.

But in a letter to state legislators earlier this week, the Seminole Tribe warned that passing a bill to specifically legalize DFS could cost the state some revenue that comes as part of its gambling compact with the tribe. Several years ago, the Seminoles and the state reached a gaming accord that gives the tribe exclusivity on certain types of gambling in the state, in exchange for a huge cut of the money.

Passing the bill, the tribe says, could cost the state $200 million a year.

Legal DFS, the tribe believes, “would violate the Tribe’s exclusivity,” the tribe’s top lawyer, Jim Shore wrote.

There still might be a way to work something out, though.

“The Tribe hopes to avoid a situation where the State enacts legislation that inadvertently violates the Tribe’s exclusivity,” Shore wrote. “That said, the Tribe and the State have discussed the issue of fantasy sports contests in previous compact negotiations and the Tribe remains willing to do so now. However, federal law requires that any reduction in the Tribe’s exclusivity must be balanced by some additional consideration from the State.”  (You can read parts of the letter in the Senate committee’s bill analysis)

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