While many states do not have laws on the books that directly address fantasy sports, Montana is a rare exception. Montana state law specifically prohibits fantasy sports games played for entry fees (and prizes) over the Internet. However, that could soon change. State Representative Forrest Mandeville (R-Columbus) has introduced a bill that would amend certain of Montana’s anti-gambling provisions to specifically allow for Internet-based fantasy sports contests with entry fees and prizes awarded to winners.
Hands Off Montana?
Rep. Mandeville’s bill is similar in many respects to a law that was passed in Maryland in May 2012, as well as one that was proposed recently in Indiana, in that its definition of “fantasy sports” relies on many of the same concepts as included in the federal law exemption established by the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (“UIGEA”) (see here for more discussion of the UIGEA framework).
Unlike UIGEA, and other applicable state statutes/bills, however, the Montana bill establishes a limit of $100 in total entry fees/administrative fees that can be charged to game participants. Entry fees/administrative fees in excess of this $100 limit would render the underlying game subject to existing Montana State criminal gambling prohibitions.
Nothing but Blue Skies for Fantasy Sports in Big Sky Country?
While the Montana bill is opposed by existing gambling interests in the State, and could face stiff opposition as a result, the proposed legislation is part of a burgeoning trend helping to entrench paid fantasy sports contests in the mainstream of American sports culture.
The increasing popularity and acceptance of fantasy sports gaming remains a significant topic for all gaming attorneys, fantasy sports lawyers and those interested in gaming and fantasy sports law in general. If you plan on engaging in, or operating, a fantasy sports or other gaming venture, you should retain competent legal counsel to help you design your contests so that they comport with applicable law.