Nebraska Lawmakers Debate, Filibuster Fantasy Sports Bill

Lawmakers in Nebraska kicked off another round of debate this week concerning a bill that seeks to impose regulations on the already-established daily fantasy sites in the state. The bill, which is backed by the DFS industry, will impose new regulations on fantasy sports sites and require them to register with the state.

State Senator Ty Larson said on Tuesday that his bill would protect Nebraskan consumers from bad actors in the industry and give players recourse in the event of mistreatment. Here he is in his own words according to the News Tribune:

We just want to have reasonable protections. 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.

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

His comment about companies allowing 3,000 entries at once is open to interpretation, but I believe he was referring to sites that allow individual high-volume players to submit thousands of entries into a single contest. Many sites run contests that allow several thousand people to enter and that generally is not seen as a bad thing.

Past debates regarding multiple entries have focused on high volume players who submit thousands of entries into individual contests. Many have expressed belief that this type of behavior stacks the odds against casual players who submit just one entry at a time. A bill passed in Massachusetts, for example, limits entries per player to the lesser of 3% of all entries or 150 entries in contests involving more than 100 entries.

The Columbus Telegram also quoted Senator Larson making the case that daily fantasy sports contests are already happening in Nebraska whether lawmakers like it or not:

“I’d like to make my colleagues just aware that fantasy sports happen in Nebraska right now. These operators are currently operating. What this is doing is adding rules and regulations.”

Omaha Senator Bob Krist had even stronger words for fellow lawmakers:

“Open your eyes to the fact that it’s already going on. If you want to regulate the activity and if you want to bring revenue because of it and you want to keep it from growing in any way, if you want to keep it from continuing to expand, then do something about it.”

Senator Larson has introduced DFS legalization bills in each of the past two years at around this time of the year. His effort in 2016 simply sought to define fantasy sports contests as games of skill.

His 2017 bill included specific regulations such as:

  • DFS sites must register with the Nebraska Department of Revenue
  • $10,000 registration fee
  • Renewal fee equal to the lesser of 6% of gross revenue or $10,000
  • Prohibit athletes and officials involved in sports events covered by DFS contests from participating in those contests
  • Prohibit employees of fantasy sites from participating in contests
  • Minimum participation age of 19
  • Provide self-restriction options for customers
  • Prohibit contests based on college, high school and youth athletic events
  • DFS sites must contract annual with a CPA to undergo an independent financial audit

He has brought the same bill up for debate this year and again, the same voices who were against it last year and the year before have come out again with similar objections. Pat Loontjer of Nebraska organization Gambling with the Good Life said this back in 2016:

“Any expanded gambling is going to hurt families. There’s usually a few people who get rich, and a lot of people who get poor. We’re better than that in Nebraska. We’re the good life — not the gambling life.”

Pat Loontjer spoke out again this week, saying that this effort “…puts the casino right in your telephone – and your kids’ telephone.”

A filibuster led by Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha ultimately put the bill on hold until Senator Larson can bring additional votes on board to break the filibuster and force a vote.