Legislation that sets up regulations and licensing requirements for fantasy gaming sites faced some tough questions at the Capitol Wednesday, during a public hearing on the proposal.
The bill would require business operating daily fantasy sports sites to register with the state and pay a licensing fee. State Rep. Tyler Vorpagel (R-Plymouth), a sponsor of the measure, argues it’s intended to provide more accountability for the industry and protect players. “What it does is provides clarity and consumer protections to an activity that people currently enjoy participating in,” he told a legislative committee.
However, opponents of the measure questioned whether the licensing process would essentially sanction a new form of online gambling. Laurie Picken with Citizens Against Expanded Gambling said the bill presents possibly “the largest expansion of gambling in Wisconsin history,” because it would define fantasy sports as a game of skill. “You are literally opening a casino and a lotto retailer in every bedroom and smart phone in the state of Wisconsin,” she warned.
Industry experts told lawmakers that they do not consider their services as gambling though, since players rely heavily on skill and their knowledge of player statistics to put together winning line-ups. “The difference between this and a gambling product, like blackjack and craps, is no luck has to happen,” said Peter Schoenke with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.
Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action pointed out that similar claims about skill can be made for games such as online poker, which still has an element of luck and is widely considered to be a form of gambling. “Simply declaring that DFS (daily fantasy sports) is not gambling does not make that truth or reality…I can declare that a dog is a cat, and that doesn’t change the truth or reality. Even if I dress a dog up like a cat, it’s still a dog,” she said.
Critics also raised concerns that bill could open Wisconsin to lawsuits, as it may violate the state’s tribal gaming compacts by legalizing another form of gaming.
Schoenke pointed out that fantasy sports have existed for decades, with thousands of state residents already participating every day. He said the bill would help set up a framework that will allow them to continue to operate in the state, while protecting players.
The bill is currently awaiting action from a legislative committee.