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'I had no idea:' Florida lawmaker looks to clarify the legal status of fantasy sports

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — As fantasy sports managers put the final touches on their line ups heading into the last week before their playoffs begin, they may be surprised to learn their contests are technically illegal under Florida law.

Fantasy Manager Mark Riccaboni, was unaware his hobby could technically get him slapped with a felony.

“I had no idea that we weren’t allowed to play fantasy. That’s an interesting take,” said Riccaboni.

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And it’s not surprising.

The law isn’t generally enforced, especially not for casual players, like Riccaboni, who play with friends and family.

“Nobody is coming after them. It is not a law enforcement priority. However, you’re acting or operating in sort of a legal cloud, and there is a hypothetical risk,” said gaming attorney Daniel Wallach.

Wallach explained the legality of fantasy sports games is a bit of an uncertainty in Florida.

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“And my view as a gaming attorney whose been practicing in this industry for over 15 years, I believe daily fantasy sports contests do not constitute illegal gambling under Florida law,” said Wallach.

But a newly filed bill aims to clarify fully the contests are legal, though it caves out fantasy for leagues below the professional level.

After learning about fantasy’s legal status, Riccaboni said the bill would provide peace of mind.

“It seems like an outdated law to me. I mean, certainly something that I’ve been stuck in with family and friends for a long time. I never really put any money on it, but it’s just something fun. Brings you together and forces you to watch the entire league rather than just being focused on a city team,” said Riccaboni.

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Wallach on the other hand is split.

The legalization could allow for new types of fantasy games and potentially increased competition with the Seminole Tribe’s current monopoly on other sports betting.

But Wallach also argues the bill as written needs a lot of work.

“It doesn’t address the question as to whether against the house contests will be allowed, or will they be prohibited. There’s no tax rate, licensing process and there are zero consumer protections or consumer safeguards baked into the statute,” said Wallach.

The bill still has a long road ahead.

The legislative session starts on January 9th.

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