DeLeo: Mass. should get ‘fair share’ from fantasy sports sites

Printed from:

Massachusetts should get its “fair share” of wagering on popular fantasy sports sites, according to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who said the growing industry could be the subject of legislation or regulation through the executive branch.

During a WCVB-TV “On the Record” interview, the Winthrop Democrat who holds great power over which bills emerge for votes and which do not, also said he’s open to hearing arguments from proponents of banning drivers from using handheld devices and said transportation companies like Uber “have to play by some of the rules of the taxi service.”

Fantasy sports sites like Draft Kings and Fan Duel appear to have caught lawmakers off guard with expensive advertising campaigns that aim to lure customers with the potential to win millions of dollars.

The Legislature, which has long relied on the state Lottery to deliver financial aid to cities and towns, in 2011 legalized casinos to expand its share of revenues from gambling, but lawmakers in Massachusetts and around the country have yet to come to grips with online gaming.

Asked if there is a role for the Legislature to regulate fantasy sports sites, DeLeo said, “There may be. I can’t answer that.” He said he’s “anxiously awaiting” a report on the topic from Attorney General Maura Healey, who says the sites are not banned under state or federal laws but that she want to protect consumers who use them.

Draft Kings and Fan Duel announced this week that they would bar employees from participating in any online fantasy sports for money after reports surfaced about employees accessing company data that they could use to play on a competing company’s site.

“I want to know that there are safeguards to level the playing field for all users and to protect kids,” Healey said this week.

DeLeo added, “I know the treasurer has voiced her opinion, that she might want to get involved here and run it like she does the Lottery.”

Asked about getting a bigger share of the revenue pie associated with wagering on fantasy sports sites, DeLeo told “On the Record” co-host Janet Wu, “I’m not sure of the actual pie that we’re getting right now to be honest with you. But I think the state should get its fair share.”

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association has partnered with Dentons, a government relations company, and monitors legislation across the United States affecting the fantasy sports industry. The association’s board includes members from ESPN, Draft Kings, Fan Duel, Gannett Co. Inc./USA TODAY, CBS Sports Digital, Yahoo Fantasy Sports,, Head2Head Sports and other companies.

In June, the association reported that participants in fantasy sports in the U.S. and Canada had reached nearly 57 million, a nearly 40 percent increase over 2014. Calling fantasy sports a “fast-growing pastime,” the association said players are spending an average of $465 per year, up from $95 in 2012. During Sunday’s NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks, Fan Duel ran an ad saying 1 million fans had won money and that Fan Duel pays out $75 million per week.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, an architect of the 2011 casino law, said Tuesday that he’s encouraged the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Treasurer Deborah Goldberg to conduct research because of potential impacts on the Lottery.

Rosenberg added: “I’m not sure how you manage this because online, it can be anywhere in the world and as long as somebody’s got a way of paying – which is usually the credit card right – it’s really hard to figure out how individual states can manage the situation. But when we were working on the casino bills, we ran out of bandwidth and even though it was being raised at that time all we could do was to urge both the gaming commission and the treasurer to do the research on it and come up with policy recommendations.”

DeLeo also expressed mixed feelings about potential MBTA ads promoting alcohol products during the interview, which aired Sunday morning. While saying “I would rather not see that being done,” he noted the MBTA’s ongoing revenue needs and the prevalence of alcohol ads on TV, online and in newspapers and magazines.

“So I’m not sure quite frankly if it’s going to make a real major dent in stopping people from having alcohol, if you put the ads on,” he said.

Regarding distracted driving, the topic of a recent legislative hearing, DeLeo noted that technology was “a whole lot different” when lawmakers approved a law banning texting while driving and said he’s “open” to hearing from those who are pushing for a ban on handheld devices among drivers in an effort to make the state’s roads safer.

DeLeo said he uses his phone while driving, and said he only feels guilty about doing so if he deviates from his lane. Drivers who use the phone while behind the wheel are able to look ahead, DeLeo said, adding, “If your mind wanders then that’s an issue.”

Transportation Committee Co-chair William Straus of Mattapoisett and Economic Development Committee Co-chair Joseph Wagner of Chicopee have both asked DeLeo recently to sit down with them and talk about advances in hands-free cell phone technology, DeLeo said.

Legislation regulating transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft remains before the Financial Services Committee and DeLeo said he couldn’t predict whether it would pass this year or next year.

He’s been getting updates from committee co-chair Rep. Aaron Michlewitz of Boston. “He tells me it has been a very, very contentious issue,” DeLeo said.

“My feeling is that in terms of Uber that they have to play by some of the rules of the taxi service,” DeLeo said, mentioning checks on driving records and criminal histories and insurance requirements.

“It requires a little more enforcement on Uber,” he said. “On the other hand I will tell you that the people who use Uber just absolutely love it. Just my office … it seems like the younger people seem to be more attuned to it that some of the older people,” said DeLeo, who was first elected to the House in 1991.

DeLeo was also relatively upbeat about the potential for an Indy Car race in South Boston, comparing the potential event to visits from the Tall Ships that have drawn tourist and visitors to the city.

“I think the major question is funding,” he said. “I am told — I’m not sure if this is true — that the folks who live along that area have approved it. I would like to see it happen. I think it would be a big thing for the city. I think it would be a big moneymaker for the city.”

— Written by Michael Norton

Copyright State House News Service