California Forum

Another View: Concern over fantasy sports gaming is misplaced

The (Tacoma, Wash.) News Tribune

Is America’s helpless public being threatened once again by wicked gambling in the form of daily fantasy sports games? And only lots and lots of regulations will help? I say that’s bilge.

What we have now is the natural outcome of government opposing technological and social change that has swept the world. California’s gambling interests have refused to change with the times, and now the state is being left high and dry by some who want government to outlaw these games and protect people from the future (“The reality is fantasy sports need to be regulated”; Editorials, Oct. 11).

Ironically, California could have been the world leader in Internet gaming long ago. The Golden State is one of the few places in the United States where all the elements of success for a viable online gaming market are found together. It is the most populous state, with a tech-savvy society and a large tolerance for responsible adult pleasures. But for at least the past eight years, we have seen licensed gambling establishments fight each other to a standstill rather than cooperate in building the future.

In the meantime, the federal government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. That law contains a clear exception for fantasy sports leagues, like it or not. At the same time, the Internet changed the way games are offered to the public.

When gambling shifted from slot machines and craps tables to computer programs and apps, it became easy to “mix and match” elements of different games. This already has occurred with online poker. It should be no surprise, then, that someone would find a legal way to supercharge fantasy sports play and to do it in a way that did not violate gambling laws.

In fact, the role of gaming and gambling has changed substantially in the past few decades, from a public nuisance and a minor crime to an engine of economic growth. Even the major sports leagues are seeing the advantage and lending support to fantasy sports games. As millennials with smartphones replace baby boomers haunting the penny slots, our gambling laws are becoming obsolete.

Federal and state lawmakers have been negligent in adjusting to the new realities. Look at California’s gambling law; it outlaws specific devices like slot machines and games that died out after the Gold Rush.

So, which system needs regulating and cleaning up more? The new Internet gambling format that has harmed no one, or the outdated established gambling houses that benefit a favored few?

Martin Owens is a Sacramento attorney specializing in Internet and interactive online gaming since 1998.