Republican Lawmaker Jason Shoaf Proposes DFS Bill That Might Clarify Pick’em Legality

A new pre-filed bill for the 2024 Florida legislative session would daily fantasy sports (DFS), potentially including pick ’em or props-style bets. Republican Rep. Jason Shoaf filed HB 679 on Nov. 30, though the legislature won’t convene until Jan. 9. If the law passes, it will come into effect on July 1, 2024. Depending on its final language, it could end up reversing the state’s ban on pick ’em fantasy.

In September, the Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) sent cease-and-desist letters to several props-style DFS operators, including PrizePicks, Underdog Fantasy, and Betr Picks. The letter asserts that betting on the result of “contests of skill”—including their products—is illegal in the state.

However, the operators have refused to stop offering their products and are still operating in Florida, citing ambiguities in state law. Meanwhile, the country’s largest operators, DraftKings and FanDuel, did not receive similar letters. That may be because they don’t offer pick ’em contests, and the letters appear to have been a targeted effort.

That could change if Rep. Shoaf’s bill passes. Props-style operators operate in over 30 states, and a favorable law in Florida could help their legal status elsewhere. DraftKings appears to have been preparing a contingency plan, filing a trademark for what would probably be a similar product of its own.

How Does The Bill Define DFS?

HB 679, in its draft form, is sufficiently ambiguous that it’s hard to tell if Shoaf’s intent is to permit pick’em products or to enforce the ban. It defines fantasy sports as:

Simulation sports games and means a contest in which a participant pays an entry fee and manages a fantasy or simulation sports team composed of athletes from a professional sports organization with the opportunity to win a cash prize.

The phrase “manages a fantasy or simulation sports team” may indicate that Shoaf doesn’t intend for it to permit pick’em products. Nowhere, however, does it include a requirement that players compete against one another rather than the house.

Although it rules out contests where the outcome is determined by a single athlete’s performance in a single game, that alone doesn’t forbid pick’em. The contests in question typically require the player to make between two and five predictions, not just one.

According to the bill, DFS contests must meet the following requirements:

  • Prize pools must be established and disclosed before participants’ entry.
  • Winning outcomes are a direct reflection of the participant’s skill and knowledge.
  • Winning outcomes are determined by statistical results of the performance of more than one individual.
  • Winning results cannot be based on the entire team’s performance (or individual in a single or pari-mutuel event).
  • Casino graphics, themes, or titles like cards, dice, and slot-style symbols are prohibited.

Also, DFS contests cannot involve collegiate or high school sports. The bill imposes a $1,000 fine and a misdemeanor for violating the rules.

Florida Bill Goes Against the Trend in Other States

While DFS has been around longer than legal sports betting, props-style bets are a newer type of DFS and have generated a lot of interest. These types of bets allow users to bet on a player’s performance and combine multiple players for higher payouts.

That has caused many state regulators to question whether props-style DFS are a form of illegal sports betting. DraftKings and FanDuel—both with a foot in each world—certainly think they are and want to keep their DFS competitors off their sports betting turf.

In 2022, Underdog Fantasy and PrizePicks pulled out of Maryland and West Virginia after the states sent them cease-and-desist letters. This year, several other states have moved in that direction.

  • In July, Wyoming sent cease-and-desist letters to operators.
  • In October, New York and Michigan changed regulations to prohibit props-style DFS.
  • Also, in October, Maine fined Underdog Fantasy almost $400,000 and ordered it to stop operations.
  • Arizona also sent operators cease-and-desist letters in November, while Mississippi told them they could not offer player vs. the house bets.

The bans have prompted PrizePicks and Underdog Fantasy to change their offerings in some states to meet regulations. In November, Underdog Fantasy introduced peer-to-peer pick ’em contests in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wyoming. Meanwhile, after the ban in Michigan, PrizePick introduced free-to-play props-style DFS in the state. The operator plans to roll free props-style DFS in other states as well.

About the Author

Chav Vasilev

Chav Vasilev

After years of managing fast-casual restaurants, Chav turned his passion for sports and occasional slot wins into a career as an iGaming writer. Sharing his time between Europe and the US, he has been exposed to betting and gambling for years and has closely followed the growth in the US. Chav is a proponent of playing responsibly and playing only at legal online sites. When not writing, you will find him watching and betting on sports, especially soccer, or trying to land the next big bonus on a slot.
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