About the time that it looks like it couldn’t get worse for the fantasy sports industry, it does.
Recent news reports show that fantasy sports betting companies have been taking illegal wagers from Washington residents. Additionally, it turns out that what appeared to be supporters of fantasy sports who were doing public demonstrations were not random fans who got together on their own but, rather, paid employees for the companies themselves.
For me, as chairman of the House Committee with oversight on gambling issues in the state, this is the last straw.
Fantasy sports betting in Washington state is illegal. Period. Any attempt to justify or legitimize companies that have engaged in a pattern of criminal behavior in our state is a proposition that I will never entertain. I also find it offensive that companies are paying people to protest and be witnesses.
These are not the types of companies that we want doing business here in Washington.
Preliminary analysis appears to show that fantasy sports gambling is extremely addictive. We also know that there are few, if any, safeguards that protect the money people are wagering. Reports that employees of these companies were making hundreds of thousands of dollars per week by wagering on the sites themselves demonstrates a complete lack of even the most fundamental safeguards that should exist over any wagering venture.
If employees of the state lottery took home 85 percent of the winnings from scratch tickets each week they would go to jail.
I also find it deeply disturbing that Washington citizens are inundated with television advertisements which seek to indoctrinate people into the belief that gambling on FanDuel and DraftKings will lead to almost instantaneous wealth. These companies are not spending tens of millions of dollars in our state without purpose. Their intent is to sway public opinion into legitimizing their illegal operations here and then to force public policymakers into enacting laws to that end.
This brings up my final point. You can’t advertise murder for hire during football games because it’s against the law, and you can’t run TV ads for methamphetamine promising people that if they’ll just give it a try it will make them a big winner in life. It is improper for these companies to advertise an activity to our young people that is blatantly and clearly illegal. We banned cigarettes advertisements from TV and although it is unhealthy, it is a legal product.
It’s time for the state attorney general to take legal action against FanDuel and DraftKings for advertising an illegal activity.
Simply put, fantasy sports is not a game of skill. It is a game of chance, and it is gambling.
Anyone foolish enough to wager on these entirely unregulated sites is being victimized. There are proposals to legalize fantasy sports over in the Senate but this is a fool’s errand on behalf of a crooked industry.
The moment that you recognize fantasy sports as a game of skill in any form, you create exactly the same accidental loophole that the federal government did which ultimately led us to this current disaster. No such piece of legislation will be moving out of the House of Representatives until this mess is cleaned up.
State Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, is a former police detective and commander of a 15-city homicide/violent crimes task force. He is chairman of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee.