The legal status of daily fantasy sports was a hot topic at the beginning of this year. Some states, starting with Nevada, considered it (and most still do) a form of gambling, while there were many others where the status of the service was ambiguous at best. Only a handful of state legislatures reached an agreement about DFS before being adjourned for the year. As it was expected, by the way, since it’s an election year, when policymakers try to avoid controversial decisions. For the same reason, punters all across the US can only read Canadian hockey and sports betting odds, not bet themselves on the sports.
The year is coming to an end, and most state legislatures reconvene at the beginning of the next. By then, the US will have a new president, so the main obstacle stopping regulators from making a meaningful decision will disappear. Let’s see what the stance of each state is on DFS at this point of the year.
After a “cease and desist” letter sent to the to biggest DFS operators in the US by the Attorney General, both DraftKings and FanDuel withdrew from Alabama by May 1st. A bill regulating the service in the state is in the works, but no real progress has been made by the time the legislature adjourned. In Arizona, where DFS is considered illegal, a bill was proposed to legalize it – but it was defeated in a committee vote. Tribal interest is considered the culprit for the lack of progress. The situation is similar in California, Connecticut, and Georgia (where the state lottery seems to be the main opponent for the service). In Hawaii, DFS operators left the market voluntarily, after the four DFS bills proposed by lawmakers were shelved. In Illinois, Attorney General Lisa Madigan declared DFS illegal under state law. DraftKings and FanDuel decided to sue – we’ll see what the court decides on the matter.
In Delaware, one of the few states where online gambling is legal, Finance Secretary Thomas Cook promised a recommendation about DFS. Since this hasn’t been made public, there’s no way to know where the state stands on the matter. In Florida, the status of DFS will most likely depend on the results of an ongoing probe by the US Attorney’s office. In Iowa, DFS is currently not legal, although multiple attempts have been made to regulate the service. In Maryland, a 2012 initiative is still waiting for the people’s vote. In Michigan, the legal status of DFS is under discussion, with the opinions of the state gambling regulator clashing with that of the legislature. The situation is similar in many other states, like Nebraska, Nevada, and many others.
There are currently only five states where daily fantasy sports are legal and regulated: Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. This is still better than the status of real online gambling, which is only regulated in three of the 50 states.