Maryland Daily Fantasy Sports Voter Referendum Possible for November Ballot

on March 24, 2016
Maryland daily fantasy sports voters

A Baltimore Ravens home game this winter could finally feature fully authorized FanDuel and DraftKings betting as a Maryland daily fantasy sports voter referendum looks likely for November. (Image: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Maryland daily fantasy sports (DFS) might find its way onto the election ballot this November somewhere after residents are challenged with deciding whether to vote for the Republican or Democratic nominee for president.

While nearly two dozen states are currently considering the legality of the emerging quasi-sports betting industry and wrestling in determining if citizens should have the right to play the contests online, one state lawmaker came up with a rather noble idea: let the voters decide!

State Senator Douglas Peters’ (D-District 23) SB 976 would “regulate the operation of Internet fantasy sports games” and give governing authority to the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission. But instead of simply pushing the bill through the Senate and House of Delegates, Peters wants voters to decide if the bill should become law.

“We want to give the people a chance to decide yes or no,” Peters told the Washington Post this week.

Slow and Steady

Across the nation, states are struggling to conclude how the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) relates to DFS. Operators of the online games say they offer contests of skill not chance, and that subsequently frees them from the 2006 law.

Others disagree, like New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who had the sites closed indefinitely this week until an appellate hearing takes place this fall.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh opined in January that he too had concerns over DFS legality and urged the state Senate and House to address the matter during the current legislative session. In 2012, Maryland exempted fantasy sports from criminal prohibitions to protect casual leagues played among friends and coworkers.

“The question triggers a complicated analysis of the nature and scope of gambling exemptions . . . the differences between traditional fantasy sports and daily fantasy sports and their evolution over time.”

What Frosh didn’t do was pressure DFS companies into suspending their services before the legislature can take appropriate action.

First in the Nation

Maryland wouldn’t be the first state to potentially legalize daily fantasy contests as its neighbor to the south Virginia grabbed that honor last March. What the state does seem to be doing first is taking appropriate steps in considering DFS and not rushing to judgment.

Though lawmakers in New York are deliberating multiple bills relating to both DFS and online poker, Schneiderman went ahead and threatened DraftKings and FanDuel with a multibillion-dollar fine for what running what he believes is criminal online gambling businesses.

Residents in the Empire State are now no longer able to participate in the conclusion of the NCAA basketball tournament, NBA and NHL playoffs, and the start of the college and NFL football seasons.

Should the appellate ruling go in favor of the DFS companies, or if lawmakers make daily fantasy sports legal, the injunction caused by Schneiderman will have been much ado about nothing.

Peters believes residents, not lawmakers, should be the ones making the decisions.

His bill has been given preliminary approval and should receive a final Senate vote this week. If it passes, it will move to the House for consideration.