Washington state unlikely to pass DFS law in 2017

For those hoped 2017 would be the year that Washington State would legalize Daily Fantasy Sports, it appears that the hope has faded just 18 days into the new year.

A Senate Commerce Committee hearing on a Daily Fantasy Sports bill which would classify DFS as a game of skill did not provide any timeline as far as movement and senate committee chair Michael Baumgartner indicated that there would be no chance that Daily Fantasy Sport will move this year.

The bill would classify DFS as a game of skill and not gambling for purposes of the Gambling Act.  It defines a fantasy competition and provides certain conditions regarding prizes and the determination of the contest winner.

The hearing was the first for the bill although some committee members noted it was similar to one introduced last year.

Senate Bill 5169 would classify Daily Fantasy Sports as a game of skill rather than that of chance which would exempt it from any classification of gambling. According to the proposed bill, “[a]ll prizes and awards offered to winning participants are established and made knwon to the participants in advance of the game or contest and teh value of the prizes and awards is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of any fees paid by participants.”  Ensuring the classification of skill, the proposed legislation notes that wins “reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants and are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of individuals in multiple real world sporting or events…”

Testifying in favor of the bill was former state attorney general Rob McKenna who now works at a law firm representing DraftKings and FanDuel.  McKenna indicated that there were 40 states that allow Daily Fantasy Sports.  Ohio would soon be the 41st state with legislation pending.  McKenna is hopeful that Washington the 42nd state.

The committee asked McKenna about how other states have addressed regulation to which he referred them to states such as Colorado, Virginia and Maryland.

In addition to McKenna, Maureen Greeley, the Executive Director of the Evergreen Council of Problem Gambling testified before the committee that warned of gambling addiction and the concern about regulation.

It was clear that without a lot of detailed questions regarding the bill, that the committee is taking baby steps in learning the intricacies of Daily Fantasy Sports and without the education, it’s unlikely that we’ll see DFS legal in Washington in 2017.

For more background on the battle for DFS in Washington state, I wrote a piece last year.

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