Editorials

Sports fantasy betting needs closer look

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2015, photo, workers set up a DraftKings promotions tent in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Mass., before an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets. New York's attorney general on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, ordered the daily fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel to stop accepting bets in the state, saying their operations amount to illegal gambling.
FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2015, photo, workers set up a DraftKings promotions tent in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Mass., before an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets. New York's attorney general on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, ordered the daily fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel to stop accepting bets in the state, saying their operations amount to illegal gambling. AP

There’s quite a dispute going in New York over betting on fantasy sports, and the question of what to allow is coming soon to Olympia and our Legislature.

On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said daily sports fantasy games are a form of illegal gambling. He sent cease-and-desist orders to two companies that run games, DraftKings and FanDuel.

Our state is one of five — including Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana and Montana — that expressly bar bets of money on fantasy sports.

But state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, thinks Washington should consider legalizing it. As Baumgartner put it in a statement, “Millions of Americans enjoy playing in fantasy sports leagues … We need to decide whether this is really gambling or a game of skill.”

In fantasy sports, players pick real professional athletes for their own teams and win based on their chosen athletes’ performance.

Options for legalizing this range from small pools of prize money to big-time gaming on websites. Baumgartner has scheduled a legislative hearing at 8 a.m. Nov. 20 before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, which he chairs.

The state Gambling Commission also is looking into the fantasy sports bets and plans a briefing for commissioners after noon Thursday (Nov. 12). The commission meeting starts at 11 a.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel at 415 Capitol Way N. in Olympia.

The staff presentation by special agents Dan Frey and Tyson Wilson is titled, “A Brief Look at Fantasy Sports and Daily Fantasy Sports.”

This issue is certainly ripe to examine. If it’s something the state ought to favor, the senator wants to determine how exactly what should be legal — bets in office pools or full blown daily games.

We’re not big fans of betting, but if it’s already happening through hard-to-regulate online gambling, it’s time to look more closely and see if our laws are appropriate.

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