AG: Fantasy sports are illegal gambling in TN

By Shelia Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s attorney general has called fantasy sports contests illegal gambling.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued a formal opinion Tuesday that said fantasy sports betting violates state laws against gambling. He said that’s because participants pay an entry fee to win a prize and a portion of that fee goes to a pot where wins are paid out.

In fantasy sports, players assemble imaginary teams made up of professional sports figures. These virtual teams compete against each other based on how well the real professional players wind up performing in the real world. The attorney general said that while participants may use skill to select players, the actual performance of many athletes is often left to chance by things like the weather, injuries and referees

The attorney general’s opinion comes as states across the country have wrestled with the question of whether the popular games played by millions of Americans should be banned outright or face more regulation. Last year nearly 30 legislatures considered proposals to outright ban the games, legalize them or regulate them.

The opinion is advisory and doesn’t change Tennessee law until either a court is asked to decide or lawmakers rewrite the laws.

Alabama’s Attorney General Luther Strange also said on Tuesday that fantasy sports is illegal gambling. He sent cease and desist letters to DraftKings and FanDuel, which are online fantasy leagues, to stop offering paid contests in Alabama.

A bill is currently working its way through the Tennessee legislature (SB2109) that would make clear that fantasy sports is legal but would regulate it. The bill, which has already passed in the Senate, is sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin (and, in the House, by Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville).

DraftKings and FanDuel issued statements on Tuesday calling on the Tennessee Legislature to support the measure.

”While we respectfully disagree with the opinion, the Attorney General expressly noted the Legislature can make needed updates to antiquated state laws and ensure nearly one million Tennesseans can continue to enjoy all forms of fantasy sports — from any season-long leagues to daily play,” the statement from FanDuel said.

Note:  The full opinion is HERE.