IN Focus: Could Indiana regulate daily fantasy sports?

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INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 7, 2016) - Bryce Mauro is a public relations poster child for fantasy sports.

“I saw an ad for it a couple years ago,” the DePauw University senior said.

The ad for the daily fantasy sports site FanDuel has turned into hundreds-of-thosuands of dollars a year for Mauro who spends his day setting teams for multiple sports.

“There’s definitely an element of luck involved,” he said. “But I think it’s a complete skill-based game. I’m living proof it’s a skill-based game.”

Mauro is one of an estimated one million Hoosiers playing fantasy sports, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

The daily sites like FanDuel and DraftKings have exploded not only in popularity, but in controversy too.

“A year ago, I never thought I’d be here talking to you,” Peter Schoenke said, chairman of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and owner of rotowire.com, a date hub for up-to-the-second fantasy stats that hubs like ESPN, YAHOO! and NFL.COM use.

But these days Schoenke is also traveling the country with a dire warning.

“The government is going to take a way potentially your ability to play the game, at least in its fullest,” he said.

Sites like FanDuel and DraftKings are already banned in Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada and Washington. And attorneys general in four other states – Texas, New York, Illinois and Vermont – have recently declared the sites illegal, forcing the industry to spend their fortune fiercely fighting litigation.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has declined to publicly weigh in.

“That’s not what we’re looking to do,” State Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Terre Haute said).

A number of state lawmakers, like Morrison, have said no proposed bans in Indiana.

Instead he’s pushing a set of industry-friendly regulations. Morrison even invited FanDuel to relocate its headquarters to Indiana from New York.

“No, it certainly was not a joke,” he said. “The state of New York is treating them, I would say, pretty unfairly.”

In a statement, a FanDuel spokesperson thanked Morrison for “offering FanDuel a safe haven to provide jobs and stimulate a nascent industry and local economy.”

The ideas before Indiana lawmakers would enact a number of new provisions aimed at consumer protections.

Players would have to be 18 years old, the sites would have to disclose certain data and the state’s Horseracing Commission would have oversight, according to pending legislation.

The state Senate passed its version of legislation this week, Senate Bill 339, which is now pending in the House.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said Wednesday he’s aware of the legislation, and said he has an open mind.

“It’s an industry that wants to be policed,” Morrison said. “They really do.”

The state, some argue, has a stake in the game as well.

Regulating, as opposed to banning the sites, would keep Hoosier players, advertisers and the industry happy.

As part of the House version of the legislation, each site would have to pay a $5,000 a year registration fee. Casinos would be allowed to host the sites, which would generate some state revenue. But unlike other states, lawmakers aren’t looking to tax fantasy sports sites to bring in big cash.

“You want to have the backing of the groups that are doing business with you,” Morrison said.

The industry has backed consumer protection-type legislation, while strongly pushing back against any calls by states and the federal government to ban the sites.

“The approach in Indiana – where FanDuel is proud to sponsor both the Colts and Pacers – underscores the growing technology businesses and sensible consumer protections are hardly mutually exclusive,” a FanDuel statement to CBS4 said.

Schoenke said their goal is to prompt state action, far away from the reach of the federal government.

“We could take an approach where hey hands off,” he said. “I mean what industry wouldn’t like that? I don’t think that’s realistic, right? There’s some legitimate consumer protection issues.”

But all this given, Indiana may not join the regulation bandwagon this year.

Some lawmakers have concerns that too many questions loom – like is this really a game of skill? Or is it chance? And who ultimately should oversee a ballooning industry?

“I think that might be something too difficult to do in a short session,” State Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte) said. “But something that will have to be addressed in the legislature in the future.”

But for every game that passes, lobbyists will keep its full-court press on Indiana.

And its one million players will keep logging on, hoping to win it big.

“What I worry about is the sites having to spend too much money to comply with every specific state’s regulation to the point where they have to raise their rates, which is their take on the games,” Mauro said. “And if they raise it too much, it would be unprofitable for me and unprofitable as a player.”