ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s Senate president Tuesday called on Attorney General Brian E. Frosh to move to shut down commercial fantasy gaming sites in Maryland.
The call from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. came less than a day after the 2016 legislative session ended without a resolution regarding sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel. Game enthusiasts who were looking for lawmakers to provide some certainty to the industry walked away with the status quo.
In December, the attorney general’s office issued a 22-page advisory that declared the sites as commercial gaming and said they were operating illegally in the state because they had not been approved at referendum. The letter stopped short of ordering the sites to cease and desist, calling on the legislature to clarify the issue during the 90-day General Assembly session.
“That attorney general is going to have to file suit and take it to court,” Miller said.
Christine Tobar, a spokeswoman for Frosh, said the attorney general could not comment on pending investigations or potential future legal filings.
Last year, the attorney general for New York ordered the companies to stop operating in that state. That order, challenged by the two companies, is now in court.
The Senate earlier this year passed two bills.
Legislation sponsored by Miller codified the attorney general’s letter making commercial sites illegal in Maryland without enabling legislation and voter approval.
A second bill, sponsored by Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, D-Prince George’s, would put the issue before voters in November, and, if approved by referendum, would require sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings to be licensed to operate in the state. The measure would prohibit players under the age of 21 and bar more experienced players from playing in daily contests marketed to casual players. It also would have required the sites to buy a gaming license — something opposed by the industry.
Both bills died in the House. Miller said the lack of action in the other chamber disappointed him.
“It was sort of the way they dealt with our income tax package — it was either our way or the highway,” Miller said.
The failure of the bills left some advocates for the industry without the certainty they hoped the 2016 session would bring for a hobby they say 900,000 Marylanders — about one in six people — participate in on some level.
“It’s sort of the new national pastime,” said Chris Grimm, a spokesman for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, which represents sites such as DraftKings, FanDuel. The group took out radio ads this month calling on players to contact legislators and oppose legislation that would ban the sites or make them subject to referendum.
Grimm acknowledged that litigation is a concern but said Monday that he had hopes for a different resolution.
“We’re confident in our position in the law here,” Grimm said. “It’s much more clear than in New York.”
Griffin Finan, a DraftKings spokesman, applauded the Monday failure of the bills.
“On behalf of the more than 900,000 fantasy sports players in Maryland, we are pleased that the House of Delegates rejected legislation that could have ended fantasy sports in Maryland,” said Finan in a statement. “In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation clarifying that participating in fantasy sports online was not gambling in the State of Maryland. As with any new technology, we support common-sense consumer protection regulations and look forward to working with lawmakers and regulators to protect fantasy sports players in Maryland.”
House Speaker Michael E. Busch said there are a number of questions regarding the best way to deal with what is becoming an emerging issue nationally.
“I think you have to look at some model legislation from different states,” Busch said. “I think that’s something, obviously, we’re looking for information and come back and deal with the issue.”
Busch the sites “are a form of gambling” but stopped short of saying he believes it’s illegal in Maryland.
“That’s the attorney general’s opinion and if he says that, I believe him but if you talk to people in that industry they’ll tell you it’s a game of skill not a gamble,” said Busch, who did not join with Miller in calling for a ban of the sites.
“That’s the attorney general’s opportunity to deal with it,” Busch said. “If he wants to do that, I’m sure he will.”