Fantasy sports illegal in Vermont, attorney general's office says

Fri Jan 15, 2016 4:53pm EST
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By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - Paid fantasy sports games are illegal in Vermont, a top law enforcement official said on Friday, as the New England state's legislature took up discussion of a bill that would exempt the popular games from the state's anti-gambling laws.

The fast-growing, multibillion-dollar fantasy sports industry has drawn increased attention from state regulators over the past year, with the attorneys general of New York, Illinois and Nevada challenging their legality.

A Vermont senator last week introduced a bill that would allow the games, but prohibit play by people under 18, professional athletes and people who work for the industry, dominated by DraftKings and FanDuel.

"Daily fantasy sports violate Vermont's gambling laws," John Treadwell, a state assistant attorney general said in an interview after discussing the proposed Vermont bill with legislators. "Vermont has very strict long-standing limitations on gambling."

Much of the national debate on fantasy sports has hinged on whether they are games of chance, as opponents contend, or games of skill, as claimed by the industry.

However, Vermont law bans wagering on both games of chance and of skill, Treadwell said, noting that one key legal precedent was an 1856 court decision related to a bet made on the sale of a pair of gray horses.

The state also has laws on the books that prohibit the collection of gambling debts and allowing people who lose money in bets to sue to recover their losses.

Treadwell said the proposed bill would give fantasy sports, in which participants build a roster of players from real-life sports teams and accumulate points based on how those players perform in actual games, a special status compared to other forms of gambling.   Continued...

A DraftKings logo is displayed on a board inside of the DFS Players Conference in New York November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson