The immense popularity of daily fantasy sports (DFS) is too big to ignore. Members of Congress know that the issue will end up on their desks sooner or later to decide the issue once and for all.
A few Congressmen are taking it upon themselves to spearhead the movement and update the laws. The current prohibition on sports betting is quickly becoming outdated, at least as it pertains to fantasy sports, and proponents for change like US Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey are pushing to make it happen.
If and when legislation is formally introduced, could online poker be on the agenda as well? It may be the best chance that the poker industry has seen in years to legalize their online games.
DFS Legislation Likely
The trailblazers of the current movement to change the laws include Pallone and US Senator Robert Menendez, also from New Jersey. The two held a press conference in mid-October to discuss DFS, noting that legalization and regulation is the best way to keep the massive industry under control, along with sports betting. “Both need to be taken out of the shadows,” said Pallone. “Daily fantasy sports is an industry crying for consumer protection.” Menendez suggested that fantasy sports be exempted from the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act).
By the end of October, Pallone announced that he had been meeting with stakeholders to draft comprehensive legislation to repeal the prohibition on sports betting and legalize DFS. As the ranking Democrat in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he has hosted hearings since May and seems ready to take the next step.
In essence, Pallone is pushing for three statutes to be revised and updated in the form of new legislation, making obsolete the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, 1961 Wire Act, and 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. “The laws need a wholesale review,” he told ESPN, “to see how they can actually work together and create a fairer playing field for all types of gambling, both online and offline, including sports betting and daily fantasy sports.”
The most difficult part of a federal law may be the issue of states’ rights, as online poker and gaming are currently being regulated and legalized on a state level, as in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. Many legislators will likely want the issue handled by states, though DFS seems to have such widespread support that federal legislation may be possible.
Online Poker Add-On a Possibility
There are numerous ways that online poker proponents could work their way into the sports betting and DFS conversation. As DFS is often labeled a game of skill, as is poker, there is a chance to bring the games together for a skill games-based bill. In addition, most of the opposition to online gaming relates to casino games, not internet poker.
Some of the possibilities for sailing the online poker boat into the DFS marina are as follows:
- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has connections with Sheldon Adelson, though the extent of which remains mostly speculative. He may have the ability to influence Adelson to leave online poker alone while still pursuing his online gaming ban as it pertains solely to casino games. Since the now-Adelson-owned Las Vegas Review-Journal has come out in favor of DFS regulation, there may be room for Adelson to support DFS legalization and put poker in the same category.
- As the two biggest proponents of the aforementioned DFS and sports betting legislation hail from New Jersey, they can easily work with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to show the benefits of online poker regulation. The facts and figures from the DGE could be helpful in convincing members of Congress to regulate DFS and poker together.
- No member of Congress has actively lobbied for pro-online poker legislation since 2015 when US Representative Joe Barton of Texas sponsored the Internet Poker Freedom Act. Should the Poker Players Alliance be able to find sponsors for an updated bill, it could be handy to have in a Congressional back pocket in the hopes of partnering with Pallone or even making it an add-on to the eventual DFS legislation.
At this point in 2016, everything seems to be in a holding pattern until after the November 8 elections. Not only will the United States have a new President, but the makeup of Congress may change significantly as well. Once the new face of Congress is clear, supporters of DFS and online poker may be able to find their way to work together and legalize these games of skill.
My biggest takeaway: You want to see action faster, hope Dems take over the House, Pallone chairs a committee.— Dustin Gouker (@DustinGouker) October 21, 2016