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With Online Gambling Ban on Table, Fantasy Sports Group Boosts Lobbying Game

Keeping an eye on online gambling legislation that could shake up fantasy leagues, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association is getting ready for an amped-up lobbying push—though it's staying neutral on the bill for now.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) says fantasy sports isn’t gambling. But just in case Congress has a different opinion on that point, it’s not taking any chances.

On Tuesday, The Hill reported that the trade group had hired a lobbying firm, Dentons, to keep an eye on issues that may affect the industry, particularly a bill that would ban online gambling.

It’s hard to find organizations that are more sensitive to the issues of sports gambling than Major League Baseball and the National Football League.

That bill, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, has Republican backers in both the House and Senate—Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), respectively. The bill, according to a March statement, “restores the long-standing interpretation of the Wire Act and reverses the Department of Justice’s abrupt December 2011 decision to expand online gaming.”

While the FSTA told the newspaper it is remaining neutral on the bill at this point, it’s keeping an eye on it. The association says there’s an important distinction between pursuits seen as gambling, like online poker, and fantasy sports, which generally have the support of the major sporting leagues.

“It’s hard to find organizations that are more sensitive to the issues of sports gambling than Major League Baseball and the National Football League,” FSTA notes in a resource page on its website. “Both leagues support fantasy sports, help market fantasy sports to consumers, and even operate and promote fantasy sports games, both free and pay-to-play, on their official web sites (MLB.com and NFL.com).”

(That said, as we noted last year, it took a little while for the sports leagues to get on board.)

The online gambling fight has grown increasingly heated in recent months, thanks partly to prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson’s interest in the issue. (He opposes the practice, launching a political action group to stop it.) Adelson’s stance led the American Gaming Association to withdraw its support of legalization in May.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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