Fantasy sports bill meets ugly reality of defeat

A bill to recognize daily fantasy sports betting sites in Minnesota as games of skill not as gambling went down Tuesday to a surprise and resounding defeat.

The bill would have given the sites more legitimacy and subjected them to some regulations, including registration fees and fines for various violations. But opponents argued fantasy sports is gambling by another name and would support an industry where they say insiders do better than the typical player.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, questioned the motivations behind the bill, saying no constituents had asked him to support it.

“And the reality is this is full of swamp water,” he said. “We have moneyed interests bringing this forward to support their future and they’re going to fence out everyone else.”

The bill failed on a 74-48 vote only two years after a similar version passed off the floor with 100 votes behind it only to stall in the Senate. Legislative leaders seldom bring bills to the floor that lack the votes to pass.

Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, sponsored the bill and said it would look out for the growing number of Minnesota fantasy sports players, who select teams of athletes and win or lose based on their performance in games.

“This does set up a regulatory framework that allows good actors to operate fantasy games within the state and stops bad actors from hurting our constituents,” Albright said.

The industry has come under regulatory fire in other states and faced lawsuits, paying penalties in some cases. But it has also seen success in securing laws in many states similar to the one sought in Minnesota.

Of the 74 votes against the bill, half came from Republicans and half from Democrats. Thirty seven Republicans voted for the bill as did 11 DFLers.

Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, said the regulatory structure was insufficient.

“The corruption and fraud accusations for this industry are everywhere and we are not sufficiently providing protection to Minnesotans who choose to bet on daily sports gambling entities,” Davnie said.

Albright said his bill would have barred activities that give operators or associated third parties confidential information that would give them a leg up on other players. He also denied the bill marked an expansion of gambling in Minnesota.

“This is a piece of information that provides guidelines, nothing more,” he said.

Given that the session is less than a month from the end, it would be difficult to revive the bill this year.