California Tribes Submit Opinion to AG on Pick’Em Games

When it comes to sports betting, California tribes have their issues. But they are free to give their opinions on issues like pick’em fantasy games for the Attorney General’s office.

California Tribes Submit Opinion to AG on Pick’Em Games

What to do about those darn Fantasy pick’em games. It’s been vexing, for sure. Do they fall under the umbrella of non-gaming activity or illegal wagering?

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) has its opinion and shared it in a letter to California Attorney General Rob Bonta on behalf of the 52 member tribes. Pick’em games count as illegal sports wagering, they argue.

Daily fantasy sports have been around in California and elsewhere for years, and jurisdictions have not come up with a viable plan on what to do with them under existing laws.

California Senator Scott Wilk contacted the AG’s office in October seeking an opinion.

Wilk put his two cents in. DFS “appears to be a game of chance not otherwise permitted by the laws of California,” he wrote.

The question from the AG:

“Does California law prohibit the offering and operation of daily fantasy sports betting platforms with players physically located within the State of California, regardless of whether the operators and associated technology are located within or outside of the state?”

Tribes have their concerns but when it comes to unregulated gambling the association has other priorities, according to PlayUSA.

“It’s both surprising and concerning that the attorney general moved so quickly for comments on fantasy sports when the tribes have been asking for decades for comments on the illegal games at cardrooms,” said James Siva, chairman of CNIGA.

In the operation of these pick’em games, major operators, such as Underdog Fantasy and PrizePicks, have participants play against the ‘house,’ where the participant’s win is purely dictated by whether he or she correctly predicts the over-under outcome of each performance statistic for each of two or more athletes, the letter said. “This is not facilitating a game in which participants are pitting their fantasy ‘teams’ against one another’s teams, as is typically associated with the management of a fantasy sports team.”

Michigan and Florida have prohibited fantasy sports operators from offering wagers resembling proposition bets.

CNIGA declared that pick’em games violate California’s ban against banking games.

“The operator provides performance statistics for various athletes that participants then bet for or against.  The participants are not competing against one another,” Siva wrote. “The participants place various bets with the operator that serves as the bank and collects all the bets, and after the contest keeps the wagers from the bets that have failed and pays out those that have won.  Thus, these DFS games run afoul of the state’s prohibition on banking games, which has been elevated to constitutional standing.”

Tribes further charge that the typical daily fantasy sports games are really illegal percentage games.

“To the extent participants in a fantasy sports game are playing and making wagers against other participants in the game, rather than the operator, and the operator is taking a percentage of the wagers made or the sums won in play, then exclusive charges or fees for use of space and facilities, make the game an illegal percentage game,” Siva added.