TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A legislative proposal to legalize fantasy sports leagues in Kansas wouldn’t violate a ban on private lotteries in the state constitution, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Friday.
Schmidt, a Republican, issued a non-binding legal opinion at the request of GOP state Rep. Mark Kahrs, of Wichita, who opposes gambling. Kahrs raised the issue because the House and Senate could take final votes on the proposal once lawmakers end their annual spring break Wednesday.
The bill is a response to the state Racing and Gaming Commission’s announcement in August that it views fantasy sports leagues as illegal lotteries. The agency has acknowledged that it doesn’t plan any enforcement efforts and doesn’t know of any criminal prosecutions.
Schmidt said one key element of a lottery is that chance determines its outcome. His opinion noted that the legislative proposal says that the results of fantasy sports contests “reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants.”
“There is no constitutional provision prohibiting such a league,” Schmidt wrote.
Kahrs, an attorney, said he sought Schmidt’s opinion because he felt there was uncertainty surrounding the proposal, not because he opposes fantasy sports. Such opinions aren’t binding, but Kahrs said he won’t contest it.
“I think it provides certainty in the law,” he said.
Schmidt stopped short of making a blanket statement that all fantasy sports leagues would be acceptable under the state constitution. He said they would have to comply with the definition in the bill and that skill must control the final results.
“A factual determination is required before a decision on a particular enterprise can be made,” Schmidt wrote.
The Kansas Constitution bans lotteries or the sale of lottery tickets, but voters have approved exceptions for a state-run lottery, betting on dog and horse races, charity raffles and bingo games run by nonprofit groups. The state’s courts have interpreted the term lottery broadly, so that it covers slot machines and casino games.
In fantasy sports leagues, players compete against one another by making up digital teams out of a pool of real athletes and tracking how well they play in their games. Each player is awarded a score based on the performance of their designated athletes, and leagues and fantasy sports websites often award cash prizes to the best teams.
The Fantasy Sports Trade Association, which lobbies for the industry, says only five other states - Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Washington - consider such games illegal.
Fantasy sports have grown dramatically in recent years, with about 41.5 million Americans each spending an average of $111 on league-related costs in 2014, according to the association’s data. That’s up from 27 million players participating in 2009, according to the association.
Fantasy sports proposal: https://bit.ly/1GgGukS
Kansas Constitution’s provisions on gambling: https://bit.ly/1bC0E1e
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