Amid a legal fight over the daily fantasy sports industry's fate, a group representing businesses like FanDuel and DraftKings has launched an advertising campaign targeting a California lawmaker who labeled the practice illegal gambling and voted against authorizing it in law.
Daily fantasy sports allows players to put together a team of individual athletes and wager on the squad’s performance. As the activity has exploded in popularity, spurred on by commercials offering big payouts, officials in some states have sought to crack down by categorizing the games as gambling.
While California Attorney General Kamala Harris has been publicly mum on the topic, California lawmakers have moved to authorize and regulate daily fantasy sports. A bill to do so sailed through its first committee vote earlier this month, with Assembly members saying it was better to proactively regulate the practice rather than await a resolution of the underlying legal dispute.
The sole dissenting vote that day came from Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, who has argued daily fantasy sports are unequivocally a form of gambling the Legislature has no authority to rein in. Now, with a key Assembly floor vote looming this week, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association is running online ads and radio spots in the Bay Area explicitly denouncing Levine.
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“State legislators are working to protect your rights to play fantasy football – but not Assemblyman Marc Levine. He’s the politician who wants to ban fantasy football in California,” says the radio spot.
“If Assemblyman Marc Levine wants to vote no on fantasy football, maybe we should be voting no on Marc Levine,” the ad concludes. It sends listeners to a website that urges visitors to “Take Action Now To Protect Fantasy Sports in CA!” and contact their lawmakers.
They realize that I’m right and they’re operating illegally in California.
Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, of the ads the daily fantasy sports industry has launched against him
The ad will be running on three Bay Area stations over the course of two weeks, Fantasy Sports Trade Association spokesman Steve Maviglio said.
“We certainly want to activate our fantasy sports players in California and make them aware of the issue,” said Peter Schoenke, president of Rotowire and chair of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, which has a neutral stance on the bill. “We think if legislators hear from their constituents who play fantasy sports, they’ll come up with a bill that works for everyone.”
In an interview, Levine called the ad blitz a sign that daily fantasy sports companies “have hit the panic button.”
“They realize that I’m right and they’re operating illegally in California, and they want to muscle their way through the Legislature by putting fear in lawmakers who would like to do the right thing,” Levine said. “This is a clear message to lawmakers and the attorney general to get out of the way of their train, and they’re going to run over anyone who dares to speak the truth.”
In another sign of the daily fantasy sports industry's increasing engagement with California politics, DraftKings reported on Tuesday giving $5,000 to a ballot measure campaign committee controlled by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who is carrying the bill allowing a regulated fantasy sports industry to operate in California.