2016 | Week of February 1 | #1135
Let me be clear. Wisconsin does not need any expansion of gambling, even gambling that is called by a different name.
Recently, a Republican state representative introduced a bill to legalize and regulate Daily Fantasy Sports online games. The bill is being rushed through as the legislative session winds down. Assembly Bill 800 is simply a very bad idea for our state.
I became aware of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) while checking the Packers’ website this past season. I frequently saw flashy banner advertisements from FanDuel. Curious, one day I clicked on the ad. My immediate reaction upon seeing the game was, “Wow. This is online gambling. I thought this was illegal in Wisconsin.” It looked like gambling, sounded like gambling, and felt like gambling.
Later I realized DFS was creating considerable controversy across the country as states were trying to decide whether or not it is online gambling and would therefore be illegal in most states, including Wisconsin.
AB 800 maintains Daily Fantasy Sports is a game of skill, not a game of chance and as such asserts that DFS is not gambling. We disagree. DFS is not like fantasy sports, an activity that spans an entire season and is not about cash investments or cash winnings. DFS contains all the elements of gambling, including a player making a wager, cash prizes and chance. In addition, this bill may very well run afoul of our state constitution and existing gaming compacts with the Native American tribes.
Poker is a good analogy. Poker well played takes quite a bit of skill—and everyone recognizes it as gambling. No one would contend it isn’t gambling by arguing it’s a game of skill. Online poker is illegal in Wisconsin, in fact. DFS should be too.
In recent months, a number of experts as well as state attorneys general have opined that DFS is gambling. Late last month, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan deemed that under state law DFS is gambling. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman determined this past November that DFS violates New York’s gambling laws. Just last month Vermont and Texas stated DFS is gambling and violates their state laws. You can add Nevada to that list as well.
Obviously, this is a controversial issue, and states are beginning to line up on the side that says DFS is gambling and is therefore not permitted per state law. Simply declaring, as AB 800 does, that DFS is not gambling does not make that the truth or reality. I can declare that a dog is a cat and that doesn’t change the truth or the reality—even if I dress the dog up like a cat. It’s still a dog.
We believe this online gambling will be a siren song that many Wisconsin residents, in particular young people—even teens—will not be able to resist. We know gambling can easily become addictive. When it is as near as a smart phone, tablet or desktop computer, we are just asking for problems.
Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling has reported that as of 2014 calls to the Council’s 24-hour helpline have increased 329% since 1996, and that about 333,000 Wisconsin citizens have a gambling problem. Imagine the magnitude of the problem if we legalize online gambling which would be available basically anywhere at any time.
Stories are beginning to surface of people, especially young men, who have become addicted to DFS gambling. Joshua Adams from New York is one of those. He is a problem gambler who thought he had his problem under control until he got involved with DFS. In his words, “Absolutely it is gambling.” Thirty-something Adams says DFS was “a game changer.”
Rather than try to legalize, regulate and embrace this business, Wisconsin ought to join other states in declaring this newest expansion of gambling illegal. At a minimum, we should seek a statement from our Attorney General on this matter and not rush this bill through. Too much is at stake. As always, gambling is a bad bet for Wisconsin because it harms our state’s best natural resource, our families. Daily Fantasy Sports is gambling. A dog is a dog no matter what you want to call it.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”