Paul Charchian: Legislators should listen to Floridians, keep fantasy sports legal

Over the past few months, fantasy sports has been in local, state and national news almost daily. What started out as an effort to educate Floridians about the fantasy sports landscape in the Sunshine State has now turned into a battle for survival for an upstart industry.

Onlookers have posed important questions about the fantasy sports industry in recent weeks, which is to be expected in such a fast-growing, technology-focused business. Those questions certainly need to be addressed and the major fantasy sports sites have already begun taking steps to do so.

Recently, fantasy sports has become the subject of a series of headline-grabbing remarks by the Attorney General of New York, who has claimed that fantasy sports is illegal gambling and should be banned.

We believe that this is not the case in New York, nor in Florida. New York’s decision is an outlier, one that the fantasy sports sites are rigorously challenging. Fantasy sports is a legal, skill-based entertainment product.

And, Floridians have spoken loudly: They want fantasy sports to remain legal, and they want the industry to be held to a high standard of integrity.

While some would suggest fantasy sports contests are a game of chance, in reality, whether a participant wins or loses, hinges entirely on his or her skill relative to the other participants in the fantasy contest.

For example, participants playing fantasy sports contests select a team of real-world athletes and accumulate points based on how their players perform in actual games. The goal — regardless of format — is to select a team of players that will score the most possible points. As you can imagine, putting together a winning roster of players takes a lot of skill, because it is not enough to know the most popular teams and their players. Participants competing in fantasy sports have to have a deep understanding of scoring systems, the strengths and weaknesses of different players and the quality of that week’s matchups. This is not just a spin of a wheel, the roll of a dice or the flip of a coin, as participants in fantasy sports contests spend hours analyzing statistics to assemble their winning teams. Simply put, this is a game of skill.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association is wholeheartedly supportive of the type of thoughtful consumer protection measures and common-sense regulations that are outlined by legislation from state Sen. Joe Negron and state Rep. Matt Gaetz. The legislation isn’t perfect, as many of our members have concerns about the licensing fees that may burden smaller and developing companies, but this approach to work with the industry should result in an outcome that allows the growing business to flourish in the state.

As these legislative efforts move toward the 2016 legislative session, we simply ask that Florida lawmakers take into account the 3 million Floridians who love fantasy sports, and want to keep their pastime legal.

Paul Charchian is chairman of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

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