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Why Is The U.S. Attorney Targeting Daily Fantasy Sports?

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2015 | Felonies

Now that we are a few weeks into the start of the NFL season, football fans are finally starting to see which teams are for real and which players are poised to have Pro Bowl seasons.

This is not all they’re seeing, however, as those football fans who choose to tune in via their television sets and radios, or over the Internet have been inundated by advertisements for daily fantasy sports websites.

These websites, which allow players to build custom fantasy football lineups each week to compete for cash prizes, have recently come under fire from certain segments of the law enforcement community who argue that it is nothing more than unregulated gambling.

Indeed, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa is currently conducting an investigation to determine whether daily fantasy sports — or DFS — is illegal here in the Sunshine State.

What exactly is the AG investigating?

Under the Illegal Gambling Business Act of 1970, Congress defined such an enterprise as one that 1) operates in violation of state law, 2) is owned and operated by 5-plus people, and 3) has been in business for 30-plus continuous days or earns $2,000 in gross revenue in any one day.

Here, the AG’s office is investigating this first element, meaning whether DFS is a violation of state law.

What then does Florida law have to say concerning DFS?

While Florida law does not expressly mention DFS, it does provide the following: “[w]hoever stakes, bets or wagers any money or other thing of value upon the result of any trial or contest of skill, speed or power or endurance of human or beast” is guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor.

The AG’s office, in pursuing this investigation, is then making it clear that it believes DFS meets these criteria.

Has Congress ever addressed DFS?

Yes. Back in 2006, Congress expressly excluded DFS as a form of gambling.

So what does all this conflicting law mean?

What it essentially means is that while DFS cannot be considered a federal crime by itself thanks to Congress’ action back in 2006, it may be a different story if the law in a particular state classifies it as illegal gambling. In these situations, it would actually become a federal crime if it satisfied the other requirements under the Illegal Gambling Business Act.

Several experts have indicated that it’s almost like the opposite of the current legal battle over marijuana, where several states have legalized the drug for sale but it’s still considered illegal under federal law.

What are some of the penalties called for by the Illegal Gambling Business Act?

Some of the penalties called for by the Illegal Gambling Business Act include up to five years in federal prison and the forfeiture of all money used in connection with the illegal gambling operation.

Stay tuned for updated on this fascinating story …