Fantasy sports betting is legal, court says, paving the way

ALBANY — Interactive online fantasy sports games offered by companies like FanDuel and DraftKings were declared constitutional in New York on Tuesday by the state’s highest court.

“Games in which skill prevails over chance … do not constitute ‘gambling,'” Court of Appeals Chief Justice Janet De Fiore wrote in Tuesday’s 4-3 decision.

The case, which began shortly after state lawmakers and then the government. Andrew Cuomo licensed fantasy sports betting in 2016, determined whether the practice constituted gambling, which is prohibited by the state Constitution, with specific exceptions.

Faced with this legal hurdle, lawmakers have declared fantasy sports to be a game of skill rather than chance, and the courts agreed on Tuesday.

The Court of Appeals ruling overturned an earlier decision that found fantasy sports violated the state constitution’s prohibition on gambling.
In Fantasy Sports Betting or IFS for Interactive Fantasy Sports, participants assemble rosters of athletes in sports such as baseball or soccer.

They take real players on real teams and form their own “fantasy” teams to compete in imaginary games.

Results are then based on actual player stats, such as successful football passes or home runs. Technically, participants pay an entry fee rather than placing bets. But they can win prizes if their fantastic teams succeed in these virtual games.

Shortly after its enactment, opponents of the game cried foul, saying fantasy sports needed to be approved by a constitutional amendment, the same way voters said “yes” to casinos in 2013.

The lawsuit has put the industry in a kind of uncertainty.

Thirteen fantasy sports companies like FanDuel and DraftKings continued to operate under temporary regulations put in place by the state Gaming Commission, pending the outcome of the case.

Fantasy Sports COA Decision by rkarlin on Scribd

Fantasy sports industry players applauded Tuesday’s decision, saying it will allow the company to move forward, with permanent regulations and more entries for players to choose from.

“Now that the legal situation is settled, we hope this will get the gears back in gear,” remarked Peter Schoenke, director of government affairs for the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association and president of RotoWire, a fantasy sports website.

“It’s been a big sore point for our industry over the past six years that a lot of companies that want to be in New York aren’t there.”
Neil Murray, who represented the Stop Predatory Gambling group opposed to fantasy sports and other betting, said he was disappointed.

“The Constitution is supposed to control the Legislative Assembly,” he said, referring to how lawmakers viewed fantasy sports as a game of skill rather than a game of chance or gambling when questions arise. constitutional issues arose.

The decision “usurps the exclusive right of the people to amend the Constitution,” added Murray, who works for the O’Connell and Aronowitz law firm of Albany.

Appeals Court Judge Rowan Wilson agreed in his dissent, writing that the 4-3 ruling “effectively amends” the state constitution.
He said the fact that lawmakers called daily fantasy sports a game of skill rather than a game of gambling brought to mind a famous scene from the movie Casablanca when a main character, police captain Renault, thought “shocked, shocked” to find out there was gambling at a nightclub there.

With Associated Press


rkarlin@timesunion.com 518 454 5758 @RickKarlin

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