Daily fantasy sports contests could soon be legal in Florida, thanks to a Senate Bill 1568 filed by Sen. Travis Hutson last Friday.
The Fantasy Sports Contest Amusement Act looks to legalize peer-to-peer fantasy sports for licensed contest operators, assigning regulatory duties to the Florida Gaming Control Commission.
Florida Fantasy Sports Contests Could Become Legal In 2024
Despite the legalization of Florida sports betting, paid fantasy sports contests remain prohibited in the Sunshine state.
Looking to change that, Sen. Hutson submitted S1568 on Jan. 5 alongside SB1566, a companion proposal that outlines operational structures and licensing fees. The filing comes just one month after Rep. Jason Shoaf prefiled HB679, another bill looking to legalize paid fantasy sports in Florida.
According to the bill, the Florida Gaming Control Commission would be responsible for creating and enforcing all regulatory guidelines, including issuing and revoking operator licenses.
Approved fantasy sports contest operators would pay a $1 million licensing fee for the first year of operations. License renewal would then cost an additional $250,000 per year.
The Florida legislative session began Jan. 9 and runs through March 8, giving Hutson’s proposal roughly two months to advance through the necessary chambers for approval.
FGCC Vice Chair Julie Brown says she expects to see nine total gambling-related bills in Florida’s 2024 legislative session. The committee, however, only plans to endorse four of these bills.
Bill Would Legalize Peer-To-Peer DFS, Not Pick’Em Fantasy Contests
While Shoaf’s bill hopes to legalize Florida fantasy sports on a broader level, Hutson’s bill speaks specifically to skill-based fantasy contests — those that require a certain level of knowledge pertaining to athlete performance.
When defining fantasy sports, Hutson’s bill stipulates:
“All winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the contest participants and are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of individuals, including athletes in the case of sporting events.”
The bill would only permit fantasy-based games where players compete against each other. It would prohibit any fantasy sports contests where player stakes are pitted against the house.
This latter type of fantasy contest, legislators argue, is too closely akin to sports betting. While sports betting is also considered skill-based gambling, bettors specifically wager against the house rather than against fellow players.
Under Hutson’s bill, pick’em fantasy games would likely also remain prohibited in Florida. Much like prop bets at a sportsbook, pick’em contests allow players to predict whether an athlete will log more or less than a given statistic on game day. And since pick’ems require players to combine two or more selections, these contests draw striking parallels to sports betting parlays.
Fantasy Sports & Pick ‘Em Contests Aren’t Currently Legal In Florida
Despite Florida’s lack of DFS legislation thus far, Nevertheless, multiple DFS brands still operate in Florida. The Florida Gaming Control Commission sent identical cease-and-desist letters to three such brands on Sept. 19 — Underdog Fantasy, Prize Picks, and Betr.
Per the letter:
“Under Florida Law, betting or wagering on the results of skill, such as sports betting, including fantasy sports betting, is strictly prohibited and constitutes a felony offense unless such activity is otherwise exempted by statute.”
FGCC executive director Louis Trombetta, who signed the letter, wrote:
“I am hereby demanding you immediately cease and desist offering or accepting bets or wagers from residents of this state on the results of any contests of skill such as sports betting, including, but not limited to, bets or wagers made in connection with fantasy sports.”
Michigan regulators issued bans against paid DFS contests mimicking player prop betting in November, resulting in numerous top DFS cites to cease operations in the state. PrizePicks, which exclusively offers pick’em contests, instead continued operating in the state by transitioning to a free-to-play platform.
PrizePicks, Betr, and Underdog Fantasy have yet to cease operations in Florida. Nor have any shifted to free-to-play gaming.
DraftKings and FanDuel also operate fantasy sports contests in the state but did not receive letters.
The Legal Gray Area Of Florida DFS
Fantasy sports contests currently exist within a legal gray area in Florida. The games aren’t explicitly prohibited, but they’re not distinctly legal either.
According to the cease and desist, these operators can only lawfully conduct such games via the introduction of a gaming compact.
The FGCC adds context to this assertion on its FAQ page when addressing DFS legality, saying:
“Unless you are placing a wager through sportsbooks operated by or in conjunction with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, you are most likely placing an illegal wager.”
Most likely. Hence where the legal gray area comes in.
Florida’s current gaming compact, signed in Apr. 2021 by Gov. Ron DeSantis, granted the Seminole Tribe a monopoly over online sports betting in exchange for $2.5 billion in tax revenue. Hard Rock Bet, however, remains the only operator to successfully partner with the tribe.
Whether or not the FGCC plans to prosecute against illicit gambling activity remains to be seen. Per Florida Statutes, Chapter 849, the criminal charges and penalties for such offenses can range from misdemeanors with minor civil fines to felonies resulting in substantial fees and imprisonment.
LINEUPS contacted the commission for comment on Tuesday, and the FGCC has yet to respond.