Nebraska Lawmakers Debate Fantasy Sports Legality

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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) -- Experts say there are 300,000 Nebraskans who play fantasy sports. Some people, like New York's Attorney General, call it another form of gambling that should be banned. The issue went before Nebraska Lawmakers Monday.

If you've watched any sports on television the last few months – the ads bombard you. Fan Duel touts players who have won three-quarters of a million dollars in one day. If it isn't Fan Duel, it's Draft Kings commercials flooding the marketplace. Draft Kings operates in Nebraska and most other states. They're banned in six states including Iowa.

Nebraska Lawmakers are looking to tighten the language in the law allowing fantasy sports so they can continue to operate. Draft Kings’ Derek Hein spoke to lawmakers about the issue.

“The big thing I think this does is gives us a narrow definition of what fantasy sports are. It could prevent some other product that may look like fantasy sports, but may actually be sports betting,” said Hein.

Opponents say these daily fantasy sports sites are selling a lie; that most people lose money and there's no regulation. Nate Grasz with Nebraska Family Alliance says these organizations bring nothing but loss for Nebraskans. He said, “Why would we want millions of dollars to leave our state and go to the sports sites. It seems the only real winner in legalizing fantasy contests are the companies who operate them. This is not investing or entertainment, it's gambling.”

Supporters like Paul Charchian point to the major sports leagues getting behind them as proof that they're legitimate; more than 325 companies are a part of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

“I would hazard to say, every single person in this room knows someone who is playing fantasy sports. It has become that widespread,” said Charchian.

David Geier is with the Nebraska Gambler Assistance Program, which helps and studies problem gamblers. He says this is a phenomenon that's still difficult to gauge the depth.

“People in the field say that every kid in high school has a casino in his pocket. That's what the SmartPhone is doing,” said Geier.

Senator Tyson Larson of O'Neill introduced the legislation. Some colleagues on the General Affairs Committee questioned whether it may be more appropriate to first wait to see how the issue develops in other states.