Lawmaker Looks To Legalize Fantasy Sports

By John Celock

A Kansas lawmaker has filed legislation with the goal of legalizing fantasy sports in the state.

Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R-Shawnee) filed legislation Monday morning that would legalize the world of fantasy sports in the state. State gaming officials had announced last year that under existing state law, fantasy sports leagues with cash prizes were illegal in the state. Hildabrand’s bill is part of a growing amount of state legislators looking to legalize the common practice in states where it is against the law.

“Because this is an innocent past time enjoyed by thousands of Kansans, I introduced this legislation to cover participants from potential prosecution,” Hildabrand told The Celock Report.

The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission had posted that fantasy sports leagues were illegal in the state on their website last year. At the time the commission had indicated that this was not a new law but rather an existing law that they were publicizing.

Following the announcement, the Racing and Gaming Commission had also announced that there was no ongoing prosecution of Kansas residents engaged in fantasy sports, either by the commission or other law enforcement agencies in the state.

Under Hildabrand’s legislation, the definitions of fantasy sports would match federal Internet gaming laws, which allow for fantasy leagues nationally.

Hildabrand’s bill defines fantasy sports as not being determined by scores, point spreads or a single real life professional sports team’s performance. Rather it would be done based on statistical performance of professional athletes, along with the skill of the fantasy league participants in assembling fantasy teams.

Hildabrand’s bill would cover all potential fantasy sports that could be played by a Kansas resident.

Kansas is not the only state where fantasy sports bans are being debated. Earlier this year, a state lawmaker in Washington filed legislation to legalize the practice in that state. The issue has also been debated in Iowa.

“It’s always been something that’s been going on around me all the time,” Washington state Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle) told The Seattle Times earlier this year about his bill to legalize fantasy sports. “People are always talking about their fantasy sports leagues.”

A bill to legalize fantasy sports in Arizona was defeated last year in the state Senate.

Hildabrand said that he is looking to legalize what most in the state thought was the law.

“Most Kansans are completely unaware they are breaking the law as it currently stand,” he said. “I know I was shocked to learn this. As legislators we must be careful to not over criminalize.”