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In this Oct. 25 photo, workers set up a DraftKings promotions tent in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Mass., before an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Marylanders mobilized to oppose ban on fantasy sports sites

Two of the largest fantasy sports websites in the country have joined forces in Maryland to mobilize players as officials look to determine whether or not the industry should be considered illegal gambling under Maryland law.

About 100,0000 Maryland players of the two sites were emailed by FanDuel and DraftKings and encouraged to contact Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot and ask him not to ban the industry, according to Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for Fantasy Sports for All, the umbrella group spearheading the effort.

“Your ability to continue playing fantasy sports in Maryland is at risk,” the email reads. “But it’s not too late. Let state Comptroller Peter Franchot know that Maryland residents want to continue playing fantasy sports. We support regulations that reasonably and fairly protect your right to continue enjoying the games you love. But some states have banned fantasy sports, and we are concerned that Maryland may be heading in that direction. ”

La Vorgna said the effort is focused on “activate players” before the sites can be banned in Maryland.

“We have an active, passionate base of fans we can directly reach, and they deserve to know where politicians stand on the issue,” La Vorgna said. “Yes, this is not one of the great moral issues of our day, but the legions who play don’t want it taken from them and the issue will be a real motivator to engage in local politics.”

A 2012 law passed in Maryland legalized fantasy sports in the state and gave the comptroller’s office the authority to regulate it. The lead sponsor of the bill and Franchot both said that, at the time, the bill did not contemplate organized corporate games but was aimed at making a social practice legal.

Since then, a number of states have raised concerns that such sites are actually illegal gambling operations. Most recently, New York joined a number of states attempting to ban the sites.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently banned the activity and said it constituted illegal gambling. A New York judge has issued a stay on the ban until a hearing can be held possibly as early as next month.

FanDuel sent similar emails to as many as 500,000 New York residents calling on them to register to vote and be prepared to vote against Schneiderman in 2018, according to the New York Daily News.

In Maryland, Franchot and other officials have raised similar concerns. The comptroller is currently undertaking a review of the sites. Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has been asked to issue an advisory letter to the legislature on whether or not the sites are legal under the 2012 law. That letter could be completed by next week.