Mississippi AG declares DFS illegal

Mississippi AG Jim Hood, who said that the skill level involved in DFS is irrelevant to its legality in the state. (Image: nytimes.com)

Mississippi’s attorney general (AG) has added his voice to a growing chorus of US state attorneys general that have declared daily fantasy sports an illegal infringement of their gambling laws.

Responding to a request for clarification from the Mississippi Gaming Commission, the state’s AG Jim Hood joined colleagues from New York, Nevada, Illinois, Texas, Vermont, and Hawaii in offering his opinion that the games were illegal.

The judgment applies to all genres of fantasy sports, including daily fantasy sports (DFS), whether played at one of the state’s legally licensed gaming establishments or elsewhere.

Too Similar to Sports Betting

In his assessment, Hood emphasized the similarity between fantasy sports and betting on sports and horseracing, which are illegal in Mississippi. While the Magnolia State has the most casinos in the US outside of Nevada and New Jersey, you won’t find any sports books in those casinos, or a racetrack anywhere in the state.  

“In either case [daily and season-long fantasy sports], winners are selected based on the tally of points earned by the athletes,” said Hood. “This method of play is similar to betting on a horse race of making a parlay bet.

“It is different from betting on the outcome of a regular football game only in that the player can choose from any number of hypothetical ‘teams’ which the player can possibly pick or create, rather than being limited to picking from the teams available as they actually exist in the NFL.”

Skill Argument Won’t Cut It

Hood also dismissed the argument that the contests are games of skill as irrelevant in the eyes of the law, since Miss. Code Section 97-33-1 proscribes a wager “upon any game, play, amusement … or upon the result of any … event or contingency whatever.”

The level of knowledge and proficiency of the players is neither here nor there based on that definition of a bet, besides which the fact that an element of chance exists within the fantasy sports model is “beyond reasonable dispute,” Hood argued.

“In our opinion, the possible existence of an element of skill in picking players in a fantasy sports game (or in picking between real teams when wagering on regular NFL games, or in picking horses in a horse race etc) is irrelevant to any charge of gambling on fantasy sports under Section 97-33-1 of the Mississippi Code,” concluded the AG.
 

The attorney general’s opinion would not completely preclude the Mississippi legislature from pursuing DFS regulation, should it choose to do so. But while there are movements afoot across the US, from California to Hawaii, to develop a legislative framework for the licensing and taxation of the industry, Mississippi lawmakers have has yet shown no inclination to follow suit.