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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)
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)

Miller clarifies position on fantasy sports gaming

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. wants to clear up any confusion regarding his position on the issue of commercial fantasy sports gaming.

It’s not legal and current state law should be clarified to reflect that fact and he has the bill to do it.

Miller made his position clear Wednesday in a one-page memo to senators that was obtained by The Daily Record.

Thomas V. "Mike" Miller

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller. File Photo, Feb. 26, 2014. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

In that letter, Miller explained that Senate Bill 980 would clarify a 2012 law that opened the door for fantasy sports gaming. That bill had the unintended consequence of allowing commercial fantasy sports operations to set up in Maryland –something Miller and other legislators have said was not contemplated nearly four years ago.

“This legislation makes the necessary clarifications as to how non commercial fantasy sports leagues could be legally conducted and provides for any necessary legislation by the state lottery and gaming control commission,” Miller wrote in his memo. “At the same time, I wanted to bring to your attention that over 20 states are considering whether to authorize and regulate commercial fantasy sports gaming in their states.”

Miller introduced the bill this year after saying he had washed his hands of the issue after requesting an opinion from Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.

Maryland is one of a growing number of states facing the issue of commercial fantasy sports gaming made popular by sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings. One industry source estimates there are roughly 130,000 players in the state.

In January, Attorney General Frosh, in a letter to Miller, advised that the sites are not operating legally within the state because they were not authorized by voters under a 2008 law that moved all gaming issues into the Maryland Constitution. Frosh stopped short of ordering the sites to cease operations in Maryland but did task legislators with dealing with the issue during the current General Assembly session.

Miller’s bill, which is one of three on the issue, makes it clear that commercial sites are not authorized under the 2012 law. The bill also moves regulatory authority from the Office of the Comptroller to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency and makes it clear that commercial fantasy sports leagues would need separate authorizing legislation and voter approval.

“I do not have an opinion as to whether or not Maryland should authorize and regulate gaming conducted by commercial fantasy sports leagues but have shared with the Senate many articles about how the industry works and the issues raised,” Miller wrote.

But in previous interviews with The Daily Record, Miller has been clear that he opposes commercial fantasy sports gaming and sees it as competition to legal gaming including casinos and the lottery. Additionally, Miller has said the industry tends to take advantage of small dollar players in favor of those who wager larger amounts, who he called “whales.” The Senate President has also said that the sites are operating illegally in the state and that he did not believe legislation authorizing the sites could pass the General Assembly or get the approval of the majority of voters in Maryland.

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