AG: Fantasy sports ‘illegal gambling’ in Tennessee – The Tennessean
Any fantasy sports contest amounts to “illegal gambling” in Tennessee, argues state Attorney General Herbert Slatery in a new opinion released Wednesday.
The sweeping opinion covers all fantasy sports, the massive industry where contestants choose individual players from professional sports teams to compose their own virtual teams in a competition with other contestants. Although states across the country have grappled with the legality ofdailygame sites, where the entire contest is completed in the course of one day and generally involves monetary prizes, Slatery’s opinion specifically applies to all fantasy sports.
The opinion, requested by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, is based on the premise that all leagues require some sort of exchange of money. That’s not accurate. Many, if not most, of the largest fantasy platforms offer free options — Yahoo and ESPN offer free leagues for fantasy football, basketball, baseball and other sports.
However, it’s fairly common that these platforms or leagues do involve some sort of cash prize, either distributed through the site or offline. Participants will have a buy-in for the league, with prizes distributed at the end of the game or season. Other sites, like the popular DraftKings and FanDuel, include daily fantasy options that do involve cash prizes.
Tennessee law essentially says any action where someone risks something of value, and that risk is based on a degree of chance, constitutes gambling, Slatery writes.
“While participants may use skill to select players for their teams, winning a fantasy sports contest is contingent to some degree on chance. Namely, the participants do not control how selected athletes perform in actuality on a given day. Athletes’ performances are affected by many fortuitous factors – weather, facilities, referees, injuries, etc,” Slatery writes.
“Thus, absent legislation specifically exempting fantasy sports contests from the definition of ‘gambling,’ these contests constitute illegal gambling under Tennessee law.”
The Fantasy Sports Trade Association reports 56.8 million people in the U.S. and Canada participated in fantasy sports in 2015. The association estimates the average player spends $46 per year on fantasy sports.
Attorney General opinions do not carry the force of law, but they are routinely cited in the course of changing laws. Legislation proposed this year authorizing the study of daily fantasy games passed the state Senate, and is set for discussion in the House this week.
This is a developing story. Check Tennessean.com for more information as it becomes available.
Reach Dave Boucher at 615-259-8892 and on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.