Ohio Expected to Usher in DFS This Year, Montana Moves on Restricted Version

Posted on: January 19, 2017, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: January 19, 2017, 03:01h.

Ohio is “likely” to regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS) this year. This news was delivered, oddly enough, at the legislative hearing of a doomed DFS bill in Washington State this week, according to Legal Sports Report (LSR).

In Washington, DFS is explicitly illegal, along with all forms of online gaming, not just to operate, but also to play. And so it will remain, at least for the time being, as the hearing summarily trashed the bill, with Senate Commerce Committee Chair Baumgartner saying it had “no chance” year.

Former Washington State AG Rob McKenna DFS
Former Washington State AG Rob McKenna dropped the unexpected bombshell that Ohio should regulate daily fantasy sports this year, during a hearing for a doomed piece of Washington DFS legislation.  (Image: John Froschauer/AP)

But testifying at the hearing was former Washington AG (and now lobbyist for FanDuel and DraftKings) Rob McKenna, who described DFS’s chances in Ohio this year in glowing terms.

Surprisingly, Ohio has not yet introduced a DFS bill yet, although two appeared late in 2016. Reading the signs, LSR interprets an industry-friendly bill is in the offing and that the Ohio leadership in the legislature is already behind it, making the state the current favorite to regulate in 2017.

Playing for Prizes

Montana is also very likely to regulate DFS contests soon, having seen its own legislation approved by in the senate this week. But this is not DFS as we know it. Rather, it’s a watered down, skill-gaming-for prizes variation.

Senate Bill 25 proposes to legalize DFS contests with maximum buy-ins of $35, and where the prizes are of a “minimal non-monetary value.” This less-than-tantalizing term will be defined by the state Department of Justice and Gambling Control Division at a later date. And let’s all just hope they sex it up a little.

The bill, which was passed unanimously, also defines DFS as skill-based, and not a game of chance.

Who’s Next?

Just three weeks into the new year, DFS legislation is also underway in Florida and is expected to be introduced shortly in Pennsylvania, in both cases as part of wider gambling expansion packages. Pennsylvania has a real chance this year, although Florida is anyone’s guess, and the state’s ongoing negotiations with the Seminole tribe could be an impediment.

Last year, eight states opted to regulate the industry: Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Colorado, New York, and Massachusetts, and more are expected to follow. Should Ohio follow suit, with 11.59 million residents, it would be the second-largest state by population, after New York, to regulate the contests.