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Why Did Ken Paxton Say Fantasy Sports Sites Are Illegal?

Photo via Office of the Attorney General

From Texas Standard:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has vowed to beat the odds and quash online sports gambling. Even if you don't play daily fantasy sports, you've probably encountered the names of the sites: Draft Kings, Fan Duel. They advertise incessantly so you might be tempted to admit that's a measure of their prominence and popularity.

Despite that popularity, those sites may soon be gone from Texas. Paxton says sites that charge players to compete cannot operate legally in the state.

Peggy Fikac, Austin bureau chief for the San Antonio Express-News, has been following this development. In traditional fantasy sports, people pick teams assembled from players based on their records and follow them through a season.

"These online sites allow people to pick new players every day or every week," she says, "and they promise big payoffs, maybe as much as millions of dollars."

The Attorney General's opinion states: "Proponents of daily fantasy sports games argue that skill is required to predict which players will have the best performance for their position in any particular game. This may well be true. However, Texas law does not require that skill predominate. Instead... [it] requires only a partial chance for there to be a bet."

Fikac says Paxton also made the distinction that gambling is when the "house" – or in this case, the site – takes a cut. "He said that the fact that there's an element of chance and the house takes a cut means it's gambling that has not been given an exception to Texas anti-gambling laws," she says.

Paxton seems to have made an exception for personal pools made by friends or co-workers, to win through playing fantasy sports. "He basically said those are fine because there's not a house that takes a cut," Fikac says.

Paxton's opinion doesn't carry the force of law, so what does this mean for daily fantasy sports in Texas? Draft Kings has said it will continue operating and FanDuel hasn't made its opinion public, Fikac says. If a district attorney filed a criminal case, the attorney general would be able to assist, she says.

"His opinion, while it doesn't stop fantasy sports right now," Fikac says, "it would be given very careful consideration and weighed very carefully by the court."

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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