New Jersey lawmaker seeks to regulate daily fantasy sports

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - A state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill that would regulate daily fantasy sports in New Jersey, putting in charge of it a state agency widely considered the toughest gambling regulator in the country.

Sen. Jim Whelan, a former Atlantic City mayor, said Monday he'll introduce a bill after conferring with the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, which would oversee daily fantasy sports play in New Jersey.

His plans come after Gov. Chris Christie ridiculed the concept during last week's Republican presidential debate. Christie said the government has more important priorities given that terrorists are on the march overseas and financial woes abound here and abroad.

The plan also comes as gambling regulators or legislators in several states are moving to regulate daily fantasy sports or considering doing so, claiming they amount to gambling. Nevada gambling regulators last month required companies offering daily fantasy sports to obtain a state gambling license in order to continue. Since then, states including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Georgia have considered enacting their own rules. On Friday, a New York state Assemblyman introduced a bill to add fantasy sports to the state's gambling code regulations.

"I don't believe we should impede one's enjoyment of fantasy sports," Whelan said in a letter to David Rebuck, director of the gaming enforcement division. "However, we have an obligation to ensure that fantasy sports competition is fair, impartial, and transparent to everyone."

Daily fantasy sports allows players to deposit money in accounts, create fantasy rosters of sports teams by selecting individual players, and then compete against other contestants based on the statistical performance of those players in order to win money. Proponents say it is a game of skill, not chance, and should not be regulated the same way casinos are.

Whelan's draft legislation has elements that the industry favors, including an explicit declaration that daily fantasy sports is a game of skill and not chance. It also would allow casinos to partner with fantasy sports providers, accepting entry fees and paying winners.

But it would subject providers to strict scrutiny of their operations and background, and would require them to obtain a permit from the state with an as-yet undetermined fee covering the cost of investigating the company.

To keep from running afoul of a federal ban on sports betting in all but four states, Whelan's bill would require that daily fantasy sports wagering not be based solely on the performance of an individual athlete, or on the score, point spread or performance of a single real team or combination of real teams.

It would allow collegiate players to be included in daily fantasy sports wagering - something that drew opposition from the NCAA, which is fighting New Jersey's efforts to overturn the sports betting ban in federal court.

"Sports wagering threatens both the integrity of the game and the well-being of student-athletes," the association said in a statement Monday. "NCAA members have defined sports wagering as putting something at risk - such as an entry fee - with the opportunity to win something in return, which includes fantasy league games."

The New Jersey gambling enforcement division declined to comment.

Also Monday, the group Stop Predatory Gambling issued a report highly critical of the daily fantasy sports industry, and expressed pessimism that government regulation will do much good.

"The singular focus of government-regulated gambling has been to maximize profits, not protecting the public health," the group said in a statement. "There is no evidence to conclude that government will regulate online fantasy sports gambling any differently."

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