Rep. Tim Sanders offered legislation in a House committee hearing Tuesday to ensure fantasy sports leagues remain legal in Minnesota.
A companion bill has been offered in the Senate.
Currently nearly one million Minnesotans are playing fantasy sports of some kind, according to Sanders. Minnesota is tops in per capita fantasy play in the entire United States, he said.
The Sanders' bill would clarify that participating in fantasy sports is legal. An amendment Sanders accepted would offer a few consumer protections, but the Sanders bill would mostly leave the industry unregulated. Sanders said he didn't want to stifle the industry with regulatory hurdles.
Fantasy players try to predict the performance of athletes and are rewarded based on the quality of their prediction. The big companies allow customers, who now number in the millions nationwide, to play every day and with the touch of a smartphone.
A national debate has erupted in the past year or so around two big fantasy sports companies and whether their product is actually sports gambling.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has ordered the big fantasy sport companies FanDuel and DraftKings to stop accepting bets in the state, calling them illegal gambling sites. His decision follows the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which also said fantasy play constitutes gambling and thus requires licensing in the nation’s only state with legal sports betting, and one that is an influential venue on gambling regulatory issues.
About a decade ago Congress deemed fantasy games of skill, not chance and therefore not gambling, which is how fantasy leagues have avoided federal restrictions. But states also have the power to regulate.
Sanders, R-Blaine, said fantasy sports are games of skill, not luck.
"You're building a team and playing against other opponents who have built similar teams to see who wins," he said.
Jake Grassel from Citizens Against Gambling Expansion testified against the bill, calling it a danger to young people and de facto sports betting.
The bill was referred to the Public Safety Committee for its next stop on the way to the full House.