“Keeping DFS on the brink of the law is counterproductive”

(Exclusive interview).- Todd Bryant fathoms the debate about regularising the fantasy sports operators.

Focus Gaming News talked with Todd Bryant about latest fantasy sports regulation trends in the US and the necessity to regulate the sector. Todd Bryant is the president and founder of Bryant Surety Bonds, an American agency that represents over 20 markets with the ability to write bonds in all 50 states. He is a surety bonds expert with years of experience in helping business owners get bonded and start their business. Bryant’s analysis on Daily Fantasy Sports legislation made him a renowned representative of the field.

What are the best ways to regulate the fantasy sports industry?

Daily fantasy sports are a bright example of how difficult it is to strike a balance between protecting businesses’ and people’s right to do as they like, while regulating an emerging industry which can potentially cost a fortune for regular folks.

Today many states are warming up to the idea of regulating DFS after years of keeping that field slightly out of sight. The move is not an easy one, but its ultimate goal is making sure small-scale fantasy sports players are not tricked out of their money.

While simply banning fantasy sports operators is not the way to go, requiring them to stick to the law is just a healthy step on the path of making DFS a safe ground for everybody. Obliging fantasy sports operators to register, license and get bonded are just some of the ways to achieve that.

This is especially relevant after numerous cases of fraudulent high-volume gamblers who use computer scripts to gain an unfair advantage over regular players. Add to that the massive amount of advertisement that DraftKings, FanDuel and similar websites are pouring on TV audiences, and you get a recipe for a gambling disaster.

In fact, keeping DFS on the brink of the law is counterproductive for both fantasy sports operators and players alike. Today some of the biggest proponents of clarifying the fantasy sports legal issues are exactly fantasy sports companies.

What are the steps states have taken to regulate the industry so far?

More than 20 states already have some form of pending legislation bound to bring order in DFS while giving a green light to operators. The clear goal of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association is to legalize DFS across the country. Of course, the hope is that the Association is also accounting for the regulation that needs to go with this.

The state of DFS legal affairs as of April 2016 is not brilliant, but things are certainly moving. Maryland, Kansas, Rhode Island and Massachusetts allow fantasy sports, and were recently joined by Indiana and Virginia. The legal battles in Arizona, Louisiana, Iowa, Washington and Montana are likely to continue for some years, as they have a history of bans. An Iowa fantasy sports law is, nevertheless, pending.

Both Florida and Mississippi are taking active steps to regulate fantasy sports, separating the legislation for them from gambling. Following a heated legal battle, New York has also enacted a fantasy sports bill to legalize but regulate the field.

Some form of a fantasy sports law is pending in 18 states, while 14 states have not even started drafting one. DFS legislation is stumbling into contesting in nine other states.

Daily fantasy sports are a bright example of how difficult it is to strike a balance between protecting businesses’ and people’s right to do as they like, while regulating an emerging industry which can potentially cost a fortune for regular folks.

Why is regulation needed now?

The need for setting a clear ground for DFS is ever more apparent with the growing interest towards such games. A few important cases also shed light on how important it is to regulate an industry that handles personal data and involves financial transactions, sometimes hefty ones.

In September 2015, due to a DraftKings employee’s mistake, sensitive data about fantasy sports athletes leaked out. Accusations of insider trading were abundant. This is just one of many examples why internal data should be regulated by the authorities, since the DFS field just offers plenty of opportunities for misuse.

Let’s not forget the problems with high-volume players using clever hacks such as computer scripts to send thousands of lineups at once, or the ‘bumhunting’ practices borrowed from poker. There have been numerous cases of gamblers taking advantage of regular small-scale or simply inexperienced players. Yet big operators did not take constructive enough measures to tackle them – if it is technically possible at all.

Last but not least, how DFS are being advertised is also a game-changer. TV ads instill in people the idea that they can actually make money out of fantasy games, which rarely proves to be the case. Protecting players is certainly a priority here, which starts from the messages they receive from fantasy sports operators and goes all the way to handling sensitive data and preventing internal fraud and external misuse.