Draft Kings disgruntled with online gaming panel recommendations

Upset with characterization as "online gaming," rather than as a game of skill

BOSTON (State House News Service) – The panel that has been studying the emerging online gaming industries on Tuesday recommended that the Legislature broadly define “online gaming” and permanently legalize daily fantasy sports, but hold off on allowing other forms of online gambling for now.

The Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports released a draft of its report and it calls for a comprehensive definition of “online gaming” to include daily fantasy sports (DFS) and encompass the ever-changing world of online gaming. The report also calls on lawmakers to “work to balance regulation with innovation and develop a robust framework as to how all online gaming should be governed, taxed, and regulated generally.”

But the commission stops short of recommending that the state expand what forms of online gaming can legally be offered in Massachusetts. “At this time, the Special Commission recommends legalizing DFS as a subset of online gaming and enacting legislation that would put into law the proposed regulatory, governance, and taxation system described above,” the report states. “However, the Special Commission recommends not legalizing more expansive online gaming at present, particularly in consideration of the fact that two resort casinos are not yet open, but urges re-evaluation in the near future and legislative oversight to continue to evaluate online gaming and activity at state and federal levels.”

Industry officials took issue with the recommendation that DFS should be defined as online gaming rather than as a game of skill. “We fundamentally disagree with some of the recommendations in the Commission’s draft report, particularly its proposal to define fantasy sports as ‘online gaming.’ No other state in the country has characterized fantasy sports this way,” James Chisholm, director of public affairs for DraftKings, said in a statement. “DraftKings is proud to call Boston and Massachusetts home. We have more than 300 employees from 79 cities and towns across the state, and while we are committed to growing and innovating here, this provision, if adopted, could impact our ability to do that.”

In a 2016 economic development law, “fantasy contests” were deemed legal, clearing up what had been something of a gray area. But the legal authority for fantasy contests is set to expire July 31, 2018, so the same law created the commission to help chart the best course forward and to investigate other online gaming like eSports.

The commission voted to delay a vote on acceptance of its report until Monday, July 31 to allow members more time to review findings and recommendations.