By Renzo Downey
For Florida Politics
Lawmakers have dropped paid fantasy sports regulations from their lineup for the gaming Special Session.
The House and Senate weren’t able to settle disagreements on legislation (HB 9A/SB 16A) to regulate the lucrative online games, including minimum age requirements. Both the House and Senate versions had passed their first committees — the Senate version is ready for the floor — but legislative leaders plan to postpone the measures Tuesday.
Compounding the issue, lawmakers only had this week to settle disagreements. Even further, lawmakers planned to adjourn the Special Session on Wednesday.
Lawmakers will be able to take up the measure next year, along with the Senate’s proposed bingo regulations that died Monday. But for now, the bills will be postponed on the Senate floor and in the House Select Committee on Gaming on Tuesday.
Senate President Wilton Simpson told reporters Tuesday that fantasy sports might be the one gaming topic lawmakers consider during the 2022 legislative cycle.
“These things come up every year and again we’ll let the committee process work next year,” he said.
Sen. Travis Hutson, the St. Johns County Republican tasked with shepherding the Senate’s bundle of bills, told Florida Politics that negotiators were far off on several topics, including the age question.
Currently, fantasy sports players must be 18 or older to wager money on the game. The House and Senate bills propose that 21 should be the minimum age to play, but lawmakers couldn’t agree on the need for that.
Scott Ward, an attorney representing DraftKings and FanDuel, told the Senate Appropriations Committee Monday that the movement to raise the age to 21 is a vestige of sports betting in Las Vegas casinos that serve alcohol.
“We’re talking about fantasy sports, doing on your phone in your living room with your friends,” Ward said. “There’s no alcohol involved.”
He also commented on the exclusion of collegiate sports, adding, “I do think that it’s ironic that the other bills being offered on sports betting allow you to bet on college sports but this bill will not allow you to bet on fantasy sports on college sports.”
Further, Ward took exception with a provision in the House version that would have required fantasy sports teams to include at least seven players competing in at least five separate events.
“Twenty-four states so far across the United States have passed fantasy sports regulation bills. Zero of those bills have this provision,” Ward told the House Select Subcommittee on Authorized Gaming Activity on Monday. “This provision would probably knock out 60% to 70% of the contests that are currently offered in the state of Florida.”
Rep. Sam Garrison, a Fleming Island Republican who is co-sponsoring legislation to ratify the overarching Seminole Gaming Compact, told a House panel Monday that the sports betting provision could be problematic.
“There’s a legitimate question and legal question as to whether or not the sports gaming, with the hub-and-spoke model as contemplated in the compact, triggers Amendment 3,” Garrison, a lawyer, said. “It’s an open legal question. Period.”
The Compact would enable the Seminoles to serve as a hub for online sports betting, with pari-mutuel operators contracting with the Tribe. Pari-mutuels would get to keep 60% of sports-betting revenue, with 40% going to the Seminoles. The Tribe would pay the state up to 14% on the net winnings.
Online sports contests are not affected by an addendum, signed Monday, to the Compact removing a provision that could have led to legalizing other online wagering. That addendum also postponed language within the Compact on fantasy sports until Oct. 15.
Another possible disagreement comes with consumer privacy. The House includes some data protections while the Senate version does not.
In Hutson’s view, the Tribe already has a framework for addressing addiction.
“We’re not going to micromanage the Tribe and how they do stuff,” the Senator told reporters Monday. “I’m not going to sit there and micromanage any contract. It’s something that they’re able to do. Other tribes have done that. I believe they have the ability to do that already.”
Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.