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Fantasy sports gambling bill heard in House committee

Fantasy sports games offered for money, such as a wager or bet, would be considered illegal gambling and prohibited under a bill considered Monday in the House Commerce and Gaming Committee.

House Bill 2370 makes it illegal for companies or individuals “to offer for play, operate, or advertise” a fantasy sports game in Washington. Violators could be charged with a class C felony.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

Prime sponsor Rep. Christopher Hurst, D–Enumclaw, said he doesn’t have a problem with fantasy sports, calling it a “great social activity.”

“It’s a fun activity for people to participate in at the workplace or in the community,” he said. “For people to engage in fantasy sports is an extension of sports and I don’t have a problem with that.”

His concerns lie with online sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings, which he says are predatory and can further gambling addictions.

“What was once a fun and social game, even if there were some wagers being shared among people, has been prostituted into a horrifically bad industry,” Hurst said.

Washington voters have repeatedly rejected Internet gambling, Hurst said. The bill clarifies existing law and protects people from getting their money stolen, he said.

Mark Allen with the Washington State Association of Broadcasters testified with concerns about the bill, saying many television stations are network affiliates that can’t control their advertising content. He said he would like different language in the bill for the advertisers.

“We understand that it is not the intention [of the bill] to put stations on the ‘hook’ for nothing they have control over and we want to make sure that’s the case,” Allen said.

Hurst said language could be added to the bill to clarify that responsibility lies with the entity generating the advertisement, not the one transmitting it.

Former Attorney General Rob McKenna, who now represents the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, also testified against the bill. He says fantasy sports have become “our new national past time,” with more 50 million Americans participating each year.

“While online fantasy contests are not available in Washington, most of us know friends, family and coworkers who have joined an offline fantasy league,” McKenna said. “People enjoy fantasy sports because it’s a form of entertainment that gives them a deeper appreciation for the sports that they love.”

“Unfortunately, HB 2370 would criminalize fantasy sports contests in all the many forms — daily, weekly, seasonally — all of it,” he said.

McKenna said the bill is unnecessary because Washington already has strict online gaming laws that block people from Washington from playing on sites like FanDuel and DraftKings.

The committee took no action on the bill Monday.