Politics & Government

August 28, 2014

Fantasy sports betting always has been illegal in Kansas, gaming commission counsel says

If you gamble on fantasy football in Kansas you may be breaking the law. But don’t worry — you probably won't go to jail.

If you gamble on fantasy football in Kansas you may be breaking the law. But don’t worry — you probably won't go to jail.

News that the state was taking steps to outlaw betting on fantasy sports spread across the Internet this week, but the attorney for the Kansas Gaming and Racing Commission said the uproar is much ado but nothing. There’s been no policy change.

The commission interprets the state’s gaming laws. It has had an interpretation for several years that fantasy leagues are illegal under Kansas law if they have a buy-in and a prize, Judy Taylor, the commission’s general counsel, explained in a phone call.

The commission took a passage about fantasy sports down from its frequently asked questions page in 2012 to rewrite it, but some people misinterpreted that to mean the commission had relaxed regulations, she said.

The commission recently put the revised language on fantasy sports back on its site. Marc Edelman, a writer for Forbes.com, noticed the change and wrote a post saying that Kansas had outlawed fantasy sports. A media storm ensued.

“He’s the one who started this whole brouhaha,” Taylor said. “So we’ve been getting calls from everywhere: Fox News, New York, attorneys around the country and, you know, TV and newspapers. And there’s absolutely nothing to it. And like I said, it’s not a policy, it’s just our interpretation.”

Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, tweeted that if he is re-elected he will pursue legislation to protect fantasy football in Kansas.

Taylor said the commission doesn’t have the power to prosecute anyone for betting on fantasy football. That would be up to police and county prosecutors. She said she knows of no prosecutor in the state who has ever pursued a case against someone for betting on fantasy sports.

She also said the commission had no say in the legality of fantasy sports betting. It just analyzed the state’s statutes to conclude “what the courts would say if somebody somewhere prosecuted somebody for fantasy sports leagues.”

In other words, fantasy sports betting is illegal in Kansas – and has been for years – but you probably don’t have to worry about getting hauled into court this season.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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