People participating in fantasy football leagues in Kansas might be breaking the law, a state official said Thursday. And that has some legislators talking about changing state law.
“It is an innocent, entertaining pastime enjoyed by thousands of Kansans that have now been made criminals by burdensome regs,” said state Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee.
Hildabrand and several other legislators are looking at proposing the legalization of fantasy football leagues when the 2015 Legislature meets in January.
Meanwhile, however, fantasy football leagues that involve money or prizes are considered illegal, said Judith Taylor, general counsel for the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission.
In fantasy football, fans draft real National Football League players to their teams and play each other based on the players’ game statistics. Usually an entry fee is required to play, and participants divvy up the pot at the end of the year with the top team owner getting the most money.
The popularity of the game has produced countless websites, magazines and blogs and become a billion-dollar betting industry.
“They meet the definition of a lottery, and unless sanctioned by a constitutional amendment are illegal,” Taylor said.
The Kansas Constitution prohibits lotteries, although constitutional amendments have been adopted to allow the state-owned Kansas Lottery, charity bingo, and pari-mutuel wagering on horse and dog races. Court cases have defined a lottery “to include any scheme, gift, enterprise or similar contrivance wherein persons agree to give valuable consideration for the chance to win a prize or prizes,” according to a Kansas attorney general’s opinion from 2005. That opinion dealt with whether it was legal to require a cover charge to be eligible for a poker tournament. The opinion said it wasn’t.
The Racing and Gaming Commission’s position on fantasy football was burning up the airwaves and social media this week.
But Taylor said the commission has considered fantasy football illegal for years. The position got new publicity when a blogger mistakenly wrote there had been a change of policy in Kansas, she said.
Still, some states, such as Florida, have specific statutes outlawing the paying of entry fees into fantasy leagues. In many states, the legality of the leagues is kind of murky.
Jason Thompson, a Lawrence resident of 20 years, said he thought the state “should focus on doing something about the job market and leave its citizens alone.”
But don’t expect any yellow flags thrown on any fantasy football leagues in Kansas.
Taylor said the commission would not enforce any action against a fantasy football league, leaving that to the discretion of local law enforcement. She said as far as she knew, in Kansas there has never been a case brought against a fantasy football league.
Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said, “Our office has no record of ever prosecuting someone nor would I would anticipate ever prosecuting someone for fantasy football unless it was an obvious gambling enterprise.”