Are Fantasy Football Sites Legal in Florida?
Note: this post is not sponsored in any way by FanDuel or Draft Kings.
If you watch football, you’ve probably seen the ads for fantasy league sites like FanDuel and Draft Kings. They’re sponsoring everything and promising fast action and big payouts.
It sounds a lot like gambling, but in reality they are classified as “games of skill” which are legal under federal law and in most states. But are they legal in Florida?
The answer is … maybe not.
In 1991 Florida’s Attorney General issued Advisory Opinion 91-03 on the issue of whether or not playing fantasy sports for money was legal. Here’s what the AG said:
According to your letter, the contestants pay $100 for the right to participate in the fantasy games by managing one of eight teams. The $800 in proceeds from the entry fees are used to make up the prizes. Such moneys, therefore, clearly appear to qualify as a “stake, bet or wager” as defined by the courts. Moreover, such moneys have been staked, wagered or bet on the result of a contest of skill. While the skill of the individual contestant picking the members of the fantasy team is involved, the prizes are paid to the contestants based upon the performance of the individual professional football players in actual games.
Accordingly, I am of the opinion that the operation of a fantasy sports league such as described in your letter would violate s. 849.14, F.S.
849.14, Florida Statutes, says this:
Whoever stakes, bets or wagers any money or other thing of value upon the result of any trial or contest of skill, speed or power or endurance of human or beast, or whoever receives in any manner whatsoever any money or other thing of value staked, bet or wagered, or offered for the purpose of being staked, bet or wagered, by or for any other person upon any such result, or whoever knowingly becomes the custodian or depositary of any money or other thing of value so staked, bet, or wagered upon any such result, or whoever aids, or assists, or abets in any manner in any of such acts all of which are hereby forbidden, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
So according to the Attorney General, playing fantasy sports online could be a misdemeanor crime. I say could because an advisory opinion is just that – advisory. Courts don’t look at what the attorney general says about their interpretation of the law as binding, although they do give it a good deal of weight.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t be prosecuted for it – the state’s top prosecutor thinks you can be, after all – just that you may not be convicted. Maybe. There haven’t been (to my knowledge) any prosecutions in Florida for participating in a fantasy sports league or even setting up a fantasy league, so there’s no binding court opinions on the issue.
Some attorneys believe that the law is antiquated and should be changed to fix the ambiguity. Until that happens, stay safe out there.