LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada regulators put their foot down a few months ago when they classified daily fantasy sports as gambling and said companies doing it without a license were operating illegally.
Now, they're sounding more optimistic about the practice.
Gov. Brian Sandoval chaired the first meeting of the revived Nevada Gaming Policy Committee on Monday in Las Vegas. The panel, which includes regulators, casino executives and state lawmakers, invited executives from industry giants FanDuel and DraftKings to help them think through the future of daily fantasy sports in Nevada.
"In order for our state to sustain its edge in an increasingly competitive industry, we must continue to expand, progress and embrace the potentials of the 21st century," Sandoval said in his opening statement.
Daily fantasy sports companies burst onto the scene last year and offer same-day payouts based on the performance of players. The companies argue that the games of skill don't qualify as gambling.
Attorneys general in Nevada and other states disagreed, challenging the industry that saw $2.8 billion in "contest entries" last year.
Gambling regulators say the companies could operate in Nevada if they concede they're gambling operations and get a traditional license. Some members of the panel suggested creating a different type of license to accommodate the fantasy sports business model.
They also said it was important that players are protected from unscrupulous operators or unfair games that can crop up in unregulated gambling environments.
"I have no question it needs to be regulated, but the question for me is how," said Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo.
Panelists spoke hopefully about bringing daily fantasy sports into the fold of regulated gambling.
Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association, the main lobbying organization for the casino industry, said he was anxious for fantasy sports to be regulated so casino companies could get involved in the business without fear of legal repercussions.
DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said the daily fantasy sports industry was ready to "join hands" with Nevada but was reluctant to pursue a Nevada gambling license in its traditional form because it could stifle innovation.
"We're all for regulation," Robins said. "We just want to make sure it's thoughtful and appropriate for our industry and that we aren't placed into a box simply because that's the existing box."
The committee is expected to meet every other month and come up with policy recommendations in October for the state's two gambling regulatory bodies — the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission.
It might also make recommendations to the Nevada Legislature, which isn't expected to reconvene until February.