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Nebraska lawmakers begin debate on fantasy sports bill

January 16, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers kicked off debate Tuesday on an industry-backed bill that would impose new regulations on fantasy sports websites, which critics see as a form of gambling.

Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill argued that his bill would protect consumers from bad actors in the fantasy sports industry that allow players to use computer algorithms to stack the odds against competitors.

Fantasy sports websites allow participants to create a fantasy team based on real-life sports players and score points based on how their players perform in actual games. The sites charge an entry fee and offer payouts to winners.

The bill could help companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel gain a better foothold in Nebraska and would require them to register with the Nebraska Department of Revenue. It also would prohibit contests based on the performance of high school or collegiate players. Anyone who runs afoul of the law could face a $1,000 fine for each violation.

“We just want to have reasonable protections,” Larson said. “There are some companies that allow 3,000 entries at once. That makes it extremely hard for an average player to compete and win against those types of people.”

At least 300,000 people in Nebraska are already playing online fantasy sports, according to a lobbyist for both companies. Sean Ostrow of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association said 19 other states have adopted similar laws.

“Really, we just want to have some uniformity state to state,” he said. “There could be some operator out there that isn’t doing things by the book. As of right now, customers don’t have any recourse because there’s no regulator.”

Opponents say the measure would help an industry that they view as a form of expanded gambling.

“This puts the casino right in your telephone — and your kids’ telephone,” said Pat Loontjer, executive director of the group Gambling with the Good Life.

Larson said fantasy sports are based predominantly on skill and not games of chance, which the state constitution bans.

Lawmakers ended debate Tuesday without voting on the measure. Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who opposes efforts to expand gambling, said he planned to force a long debate on the issue in hopes of stalling a first-round vote.

“This is a bill I can take a lot of time on,” he said.

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte

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