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Daily fantasy sports gambling advancing through legislature

Karen Dewitt
WRVO News (file photo)

Two bills to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports and some other forms of gambling are moving through the state 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, Schneiderman settled with the major companies, Fan Duel and Draft King, saying the sites will continue to be banned until September unless the legislature acts to regulate the online gambling before the end of its session later this month.

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

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. Participants are often pitted against “highly experienced people,” so they stand little chance of winning any money, he said.

“DFS is a hustle,” he said.

The companies have denied that their games are unfair.

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

“I’m not a huge fan of gambling personally, because I do think that it can lead to other ills in society,” said Heastie.

He said online gambling is occurring despite prohibitions, however, and it’s best for the state to acknowledge that and regulate it.

Heastie said 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 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.”

That could mean the online gambling would become legal without any public discussion.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.