Elected officials, regulators and reporters continue to grapple with the new phenomenon of daily fantasy sports. Yet what’s curious – even troubling – about California’s recent approaches to the issue are voices such as Assemblyman Marc Levine, who seems to suggest that legislators have no role to play in addressing regulatory shortfalls and protecting consumers (“It’s up to voters, not Legislature, to legalize fantasy sports betting,” Viewpoints, Jan. 4).
Levine, who was the lone dissenter in an Assembly committee vote last week in favor of approving a fantasy sports bill, also informed Attorney General Kamala Harris that it was her responsibility – not that of the Legislature – to make sure that daily fantasy sports betting is shut down “until California law is made clear and consumers are protected.”
As former attorney general of Massachusetts, I know how important it is that rapidly growing, popular businesses respect the law and treat consumers fairly. And I appreciate Levine’s desire to make sure Harris stays involved.
But it’s not only the attorney general’s office that should play a role in adapting regulations to business innovation and consumer demand. It’s essential that elected representatives play a constructive role in letting fans use 21st century technology. Legislatures have a responsibility to study and understand the businesses that operate in their states. Simply shifting that responsibility to voters, even if permitted by California law, isn’t enough.
There is a legitimate discussion about whether fantasy sports represent games of skill, or are purely games of chance. DraftKings and its competitors argue, with significant evidence, that they are games of skill; any fan who invests the time to track a virtual team knows this. Opponents object to the scale of money, the level of organization and the marketing strategies of fantasy sports companies. DraftKings and others have made it clear they want to work with regulators to create or improve regulations.
What gets lost in this debate – with views like Levine’s – is the critical role legislators can and should play in overseeing business activity that is already happening. This is a hallmark of the technology-driven innovation in which California takes justifiable pride.
Martha Coakley, the former attorney general of Massachusetts, is a lawyer at Foley Hoag, a Boston-based law firm representing DraftKings. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.