The intersection of U.S. online poker and daily fantasy sports has never been more pronounced than it is right now in terms of action at the state level.
Whether you think DFS is a game of skill or gambling, this much is becoming clear, and is a rallying cry for online gambling advocates: There’s not that much reason to say one is OK and the other is not.
People beating the drum that more gambling is bad on morality-based grounds are generally pushed to the side, at least in states that already authorize lots of forms of wagering. And the mechanics of the two industries are generally the same:
- People hand money over to an operator in order to take part in games or contests.
- Sites would benefit from sort of third-party oversight to ensure that games are being run fairly.
- Both are going to occur on an unregulated basis, whether states pass laws or not.
Where DFS and iPoker intersect
The idea that regulation of DFS and online poker should both take place has momentum in several states:
- New York is considering both DFS and iPoker bills right now, with one key senator saying both bills should be passed.
- Casino interests in Illinois (and New York, for that matter) have tried to conflate DFS and online poker.
- Pennsylvania could see a vote in the House on online gambling as soon as this week, with DFS legislation scheduled to be taken up next week. The latter appears set to be handled via the land-based casino industry.
- New Jersey already has legal online gambling, and is working on DFS legislation.
- Massachusetts has floated the idea of an “omnibus” online gambling approach.
So, why are they treated differently?
The big difference of course, is the starting point for the two activities.
DFS, although existing in a legal gray area in a lot of states. But it takes place in a majority of states, and will continue to do so whether a bill is passed or not.
Online poker, meanwhile, is considered illegal in the majority of states unless expressly authorized. (Of course, online poker is being played in nearly every state, via offshore sites, whether critics believe it or not.)
Other than that, there’s not a terribly compelling argument that DFS needs to be treated in a wholly different fashion, other than from a financial standpoint. (The DFS industry, as currently situated, would have a difficult time dealing with onerous fees and taxes for the ability to be licensed and operate in ‘x’ state.)
It boils down to consumer protection
When it comes down to it, the proponents of both DFS and online poker want to pass laws for consumer protection reasons. (On the poker and gambling side, revenue is a more serious part of the equation.)
After all, people are playing poker (and DFS) whether states act or not. So why not do something about it?
Whether lawmakers in all these jurisdictions will come to the realization that DFS and online poker should be treated in a similar fashion is unknown. But the idea is gaining a foothold — I could see it developing in New York late last year. And that foothold could eventually translate into common sense trumping inaction on both DFS and online poker.