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Fantasy Sports Industry Asks Washington Legislature To Be Legalized

If you watch sports on TV, you can't miss the barrage of advertising for fantasy sports websites. Washington and Montana are two of only six states that keep out fantasy sports operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

In Olympia Friday, the burgeoning industry asked Washington state lawmakers to let them in.

In fantasy football, participants draft players, field teams and wager money with the outcome determined by statistics from real world contests. The question facing policy makers now that this has become a multi-billion dollar business is whether it is primarily a game of skill or a game of chance. The latter makes it illegal online gambling.

Former Washington state attorney general Rob McKenna advocates to allow online fantasy sports in the state.

"We think they're all games of skill,” McKenna said. “But there is a good argument that daily contests, weekly contests are even more reliant on skill than are the season long contests."

McKenna spoke on behalf of DraftKings, FanDuel and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association to a state Senate work session, which pondered an evolving bill to legalize low-stakes, season-long fantasy leagues.

The Washington legislature took no action on Friday. Discussion of the issue should resume in January when the 2016 Session convenes.

This comes against of backdrop of tumult for the fantasy sports industry. This month, New York’s attorney general moved to shut down FanDuel and DraftKings in his state on the basis that they are illegal gambling operations. The state of New York, the FBI and U.S. Justice Department are investigating insider trading at daily fantasy sites.

Nevada and Massachusetts are some of the other states deliberating increased regulation or restrictions on online fantasy sports operations. Residents of Idaho and Oregon freely log on to sites like FanDuel and DraftKings because their state laws are silent about fantasy sports.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.