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Formally recognizing fantasy sports is back for debate

After the Senate failed to pass a bill formally recognizing fantasy sports last year, the bets were out that the idea would return. It has.

While some states are pushing to ban companies like DraftKings and FanDuel – two online fantasy sports sites – Minnesota is again looking to etch the industry into its books. HF1415, sponsored by Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) would authorize daily fantasy sports and with it, establish regulations governing its use.

The House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday approved Albright’s bill, sending it to the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee. Its companion, SF1402, sponsored by Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point) awaits action by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee.

Last session the House passed a similar bill 100-28 but its Senate sponsor, Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), dropped her proposal weeks later.

Daily fantasy sports aren’t illegal in Minnesota – they’re just unregulated. There are an estimated 170,000 daily fantasy sports players in Minnesota, industry professionals claim. The industry is pushing formal recognition in state law.

“As one of the first full-time employees in the fantasy sports industry, I have watched the industry grow from a misunderstood hobby to a technology driven game that even casual fans can understand and partake in,” said Paul Charchian, president of LeagueSafe, a daily fantasy sports finance management company. “Fantasy sports are more exciting and accessible than ever, but at its core is still the same principle, which starts with a love of sports.”

Opponents contend that daily fantasy sports is gambling – similar to the lottery or casinos – because it involves wagering and chance, not skill or performance. HF1415 would clarify that daily fantasy sports is a contest of skill and doesn’t violate illegal gambling laws.

Some members raised questions about unclear items in the bill like taxation. Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) noted that the current bill doesn’t include collecting taxes from the daily fantasy sports companies, instead it requires a $500 annual operational fee.

“(Let’s) make the bill the best it can be,” Albright said.

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