Florida: House weighs legislation to regulate fantasy sports contests

The Florida House of Representatives is currently deliberating on HB 679, a legislative proposal with the potential to significantly impact the regulation of fantasy sports contests in the state. Led by State Representative Jason Shoaf, the bill aims to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for fantasy sports, introducing rules that may reshape the landscape of online sports gaming in Florida.

The proposed legislation includes crucial provisions outlining the prerequisites for the legal operation of fantasy sports contests. An essential requirement is the mandatory disclosure of contest prizes and awards to participants before entry, underscoring a commitment to transparency and consumer protection in these contests.

HB 679 specifically defines a “fantasy sports contest” as games where participants pay an entry fee to manage a fantasy team composed of professional athletes, with the opportunity to win cash prizes. The regulation of these contests is intended to ensure fair play and consumer protection within a legal framework.

Highlighting the significance of skill and knowledge, the legislation asserts that winning outcomes in fantasy sports contests should be determined by the relative expertise of participants, relying on accumulated statistical results. This strategic approach positions fantasy sports closer to skill-based competitions, distinguishing it from traditional forms of gambling.

The bill outlines specific criteria for winning outcomes, excluding factors such as the score, point spread, or performance of a single team. It also prohibits individual performances in single events, poker, or other card games, as well as performances in collegiate or youth sports events, outlining the scope of fantasy sports contests and preventing potential misuse.

Approval of HB 679 would exempt certain fantasy sports contests from specific gambling laws, providing legitimacy to an industry that has previously operated in a legal gray area. The suggested effective date of July 1, 2024, marks a prospective shift for fantasy sports enthusiasts in Florida, officially acknowledging and regulating fantasy sports within the sports and entertainment sector.

However, it is crucial to note that violations of the bill’s provisions could result in fines or even misdemeanor charges, emphasizing a commitment to enforcing the outlined regulations. The bill represents a measured response to the increasing popularity and economic potential of fantasy sports, aiming to strike a balance between consumer protection and industry growth.