Maine will join the growing number of states that will consider legislation next year to regulate fantasy sports gambling.
Fantasy sports gambling is big business. Players select their fantasy teams from real professional sports teams, pay an upfront amount and win money back based on how those players perform.
Pro football dominates the online leagues, run by websites such as FanDuel and Draft Kings. So far eight states have adopted laws regulating the fantasy sports leagues for contests that run a day, sometimes as long as a week.
At this week’s meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Chicago, some Maine lawmakers met with representatives of companies running the websites. Republican state Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta said it’s a growing business with more than 57 million players nationally, and may deserve a closer look.
“Should there be some regulation of these leagues to make sure that consumers are being protected when these leagues come into a state?” he said. “Secondly, is this a possible revenue source as well?”
One study estimated $2.6 billion in entry fees nationally were paid last year and that it will grow to more than $14 billion in 2020.
Katz has submitted a bill title for consideration in the next session so that Maine will take a look at all of the issues surrounding regulating the gambling. He does not have to submit a detailed proposal until after the session is underway.
State Rep. Matt Pouilot of Augusta, who also was at the meeting in Chicago, believes Mainers deserve some protection.
“There was some pretty big blow up with Draft Kings and, you know, a while back with some reports of insider baseball, no pun intended, going on with one of their employees,” he said.
Some states are passing laws to regulate the gambling sites, others are leveraging existing laws such as the Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said the state’s criminal code is ambiguous about whether fantasy sports betting is a game of chance or a game of skill. That will need to be clarified, and she said there are many other issues that need to be explored.
“It’s fun to, you know, to pretend you are the manager of a gazillion teams, you are going to put this quarterback together with this linebacker, this, that and the other thing,” she said. “That can be a lot of fun, but when it comes to putting a lot of money at risk, and putting your family savings at risk, that’s something that causes me great concern.”
Mills said lawmakers should consider limiting how much can be bet, who can play and requiring disclaimers to reveal the odds of winning.
Katz said with the right safeguards, fantasy sports revenues could generate additional income for state coffers. Several states are projecting a few million dollars a year from regulating and taxing fantasy sports leagues.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.