Montana Senators Vote Yes for Fantasy Sports Legislation

by Jim Hall

Montana Fantasy SportsDaily fantasy sports in Montana is one step closer after senators vote in favor of a new bill involving fantasy sports.

Next to casino and poker gaming, daily fantasy sports seems to be the hot topic of debate in several states in the US. Daily fantasy sports has been an activity enjoyed by millions of Americans for many years and it wasn’t until 2015 that lawmakers began to look at the activity. Some states would create legislation that regulated the industry while others would rule the activity illegal and push operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings out. The latest state to take a step forward in the positive direction for daily fantasy sports is Montana with the recent passage of Senate Bill 25.

 A New Bill Passes

The Montana Senate voted 49 to 0 in approval for a third and final reading of a new measure introduced in the state, known as Senate Bill 25. The goal of the bill is to revise the gaming laws of the state. The measure was introduced by Senator Mark Blasdel and is a product of a group known as the Gaming Advisory Council. This group works in part with the Department of Justice Gaming Control Division.

During the floor session of the Senate on Tuesday, Blasdel stated that there are members from the legislature and the gaming industry as well as tribal and local governments involved and the various issues have been discussed with a bill coming forward that will involve a lot of different work. Based on the language of the measure, taking part in social fantasy sports leagues will not be deemed a gambling activity or gambling therein.

How is Gambling Defined?

Defining the term gambling seems to be on the mind of many lawmakers in Montana as well as across the United States. It seems defining the term is a driving force behind whether or not an activity is considered legal or illegal. In Montana, the Senate decided to define the term gambling and gambling activity as an act of risking any money, credit, deposit, check, property or other thing of value for a gain. This gain is contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, or the operation of a gambling device or gambling enterprise.

The bill exempts fantasy sports leagues from the term gambling or gambling activity. This is limited to charges of $35 entry fee maximum and that the contests are played for a prize of minimal non-monetary value. A fantasy league should include a length of season and will not impose a charge for trading or draft picks.

According to Senator Blasdel, SB 25 does not open the state up to daily fantasy leagues. Blasdel stated in the session that the bill is a product of the Gaming Advisory Coucil and is one of the interim study groups that a few of the highlights of the bill came from during discussion of legislative matters. One such discussion included social fantasy games. There is a narrow scope in the bill and it does not open up the state to daily fantasy leagues or DraftKings and other companies that operate such contests.

The bill is merely offering social and non-monetary gift type fantasy contests. The contests have to be season long and there should be no charges for any trades or other fees.

This is a small step in the right direction for the state, especially for those who enjoy fantasy sports contests. It could be that we see additional bills emerge after the passage of this measure. How will the gaming industry of Montana change? We will certainly find out in the coming months as this legislation is put in place and if any will follow.