Fantasy football fans, time to rejoice: All fantasy sports competitions may soon become legal in Arizona.
Although fantasy sports competitions are legal under federal law, Arizona is one of five states where they are prohibited because it's considered a "game of chance," which is illegal under Arizona's gambling laws. But Senate Bill 1468, proposed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would amend the gambling statute to legalize all fantasy sports competitions.
Currently, sites like ESPN and CBS Sports allow Arizonans to participate in fantasy sports, but players are ineligible to win any prizes or awards. But under the bill, as long as prizes and awards are determined at a set value in advance, prize money will be completely legal. SB 1468 would also exclude fantasy sports competitions from the state's current definition of gambling.
If you've been playing fantasy sports in Arizona for years and are terrified the Attorney General's Office is going to come knocking at your door, no worries: It's not like people usually are prosecuted for winning $50 in a league with their friends. But everyone who plays fantasy sports in Arizona is breaking the law, and most people have no idea.
"What's amazing is you could probably tell anyone on the street that this was illegal in the state of Arizona, and they'd probably laugh at you," Democratic Senator Carlyle Begay says.
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Organizations like the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) have been lobbying for bills legalizing fantasy sports competitions for years. They've passed legislation in Maryland, and are currently sponsoring a bill in Iowa. FSTA Board member Stacie Stern emphasizes the importance of legalizing it in all 50 states.
"Because [fantasy sports] have been going on for so long, I don't think people who participate realize that when they join, they are breaking the law," Stern says. "In the majority of the states it's legal, and we want to get Arizona caught up."
Senator Begay believes this bill will also open up business in Arizona, particularly since Super Bowl XLIX will be held in Glendale next year.
"We could host fantasy football organizations and conventions," Begay says. "It tells the NFL and the rest of the industry that Arizona's open for business."