Florida Orders Fantasy Sports Sites To Halt Operations

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In a decisive crackdown on what it deems illicit gambling activities, the Florida Gaming Control Commission has dispatched stern cease-and-desist missives to a triumvirate of fantasy sports platforms. These platforms, distinguishable from traditional daily fantasy sports (DFS) offerings, allow participants to engage in ‘pick’em’ contests that pit them against the house rather than amongst a player pool.

At the heart of the dispute are the mechanics of these games: users predict whether a bespoke assemblage of athletes will eclipse or fall short of a point benchmark set by the company. This format is contested by the state authorities who assert that these wagers transgress Floridian gambling statutes.

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The implicated entities — PrizePicks, Betr, and Underdog Fantasy — were afforded a thirty-day window, concluding on March 1, a date edged into calendars by the quadrennial curiosity of a leap year February. Should these firms align operations with the directive, they can sidestep further punitive recourse, which could involve referrals for prosecutorial review.

While facing a suspension of their ‘pick’em’ contests, the firms are not barred from conducting legally compliant competitions. Official correspondence emphasized such a stance, anticipating adherence by all operators.

Within the broader Floridian gaming tapestry, the Seminole Tribe occupies a pivotal role, monopolizing house-banked table games and leveraging a gaming compact augmented in 2021 to annex sports wagering — both terrestrial and virtual — to its portfolio. However, controversy ensues over this digital betting venture, which is now under appellate scrutiny leading to the US Supreme Court. The crux of the contention lies in whether the remote placement of bets adheres to tribal gaming restrictions to sovereign land operations.

This debate is stoked by the reemergence of Hard Rock Bet, the Seminole’s betting brand, which has painted the fantasy sports as a direct affront to its exclusivity compact, delineating them as undiluted gambling. Their chairman and CEO, Jim Allen, distinguished traditional fantasy sports, as exemplified by industry giants DraftKings and FanDuel, from the contested activities of the abovementioned firms.

The actions of the Seminoles and the corresponding responsiveness of state regulators amplify the tribe’s clout in Florida’s gaming scene. The state’s regulatory body reasons that the engagement of fantasy sports firms in wagering contests constitutes a breach of the prescription that they should merely host a prize pool for a participation fee. This nuance shields DraftKings and FanDuel from similar regulatory ire.

Florida’s stance on fantasy sports remains nebulous, with state commission FAQs insinuating the illegality of wagers outside of those administered by or linked to the Seminole Tribe.

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