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Fantasy Sports Gambling Advancing Through N.Y. Legislature

Richard Drew

Two separate bills to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports and some other forms of gambling are moving through the legislature, but anti-gambling groups say they should be stopped.

Daily Fantasy Sports games were halted in New York, after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declared them illegal last fall. In March the Attorney General settled with the major companies, FanDuel and DraftKings, saying the sites will continue to be banned until September, unless the legislature acts to regulate the online gambling before the end of the legislative session later this month.

Now, the Senate and the Assembly are crafting bills to allow the sites to operate in New York once again.

Stephen Shafer, with the Coalition Against Gambling in New York, says the games are exploitative and in some cases, rigged against the players.

“Relatively inexperienced people are drawn in, usually by advertising” said Shafer, who said the companies use sophisticated algorithms to help them choose their teams, where they are often pitted against “highly experienced people” where they stand little chance of winning any money.

“DFS is a hustle,” he said.

The companies have denied that their games are unfair.

The measures also regulate online poker as well, and Shafer says the bills would greatly expand all types of online gambling, which can be accessed through smartphones and all types of devices.

Under provisions of the bills, the state would take in 15 percent of revenues gained from the fantasy sports  gambling, and companies would have to pay licensing fees, in some cases up to $100,000, under the Assembly version of the bill.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says the measure is advancing through his house. He says online gambling is occurring regardless of any prohibitions, and it’s best for the state to acknowledge that, and try to take control.

“I’m not a huge fan of gambling personally, because I do think that it can lead to other ills in society,” said Heastie, who said people gamble anyway, so it’s “important” for New York state to regulate it.

Speaker Heastie says there are differences between the Assembly and the Senate bills that he hopes can be worked out by the end of the session, scheduled for June 16.

Shafer, with the Coalition Against Gambling, said he worries the final resolution will come as part of the traditional end of session package of bills known as the “big ugly,” often approved in the middle of the night on the last day of the session.

“What I fear is that they’ll jam it into some omnibus bill at the end,” said Shafer. “So that you’d have to vote for it to get some other bill that you want” – meaning online gambling will become legal without any public discussion.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.