TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Fantasy sports leagues would be legal in Kansas even though the state's gambling commission thinks otherwise under a bill proposed by a state lawmaker who would classify them as a game of skill rather than a lottery.
The legislation submitted by Republican Rep. Brett Hildabrand of Shawnee differs with a decision by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, the state's gambling regulator, which said in August that private fantasy sports leagues meet the criteria of a lottery and are therefore illegal.
Under the Kansas Constitution, only the state is allowed to administer lotteries.
In fantasy sports leagues, players compete against one another by making up teams out of a pool of real athletes and tracking how well they play in their games. Each player is awarded a score based on the performance of their assortment of athletes, and leagues often award cash prizes to the best teams derived from entry fees.
Hildabrand said he was "shocked" by the commission's move because fantasy sports leagues are so popular. An estimated 40 million players participated in leagues over the last NFL season, and Hildabrand speculated that a number of state legislators were among them, possibly breaking state law without knowing it.
"We don't want to be making criminals out of the average citizen of Kansas," Hildabrand said.
The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission did not respond to requests for comment, but following the backlash over the decision in August it said on its website that to its knowledge, "no agency at the state or local level is ramping up efforts to go after (fantasy sports league) participants."
A representative of the state attorney general's office declined to comment on the legal dispute or if any charges could be brought against participants.
Five states consider fantasy sports leagues illegal. Bills before the legislatures of three of them — Iowa, Montana and Washington — would legalize private leagues.