If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, most likely it’s a duck.
When it comes to playing fantasy sports, where real money is paid in and out and the house takes a cut, it sure looks like gambling.
The federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 determined paying to play fantasy sports was an allowable game of skill as opposed to sports gambling, which the act clearly defines as illegal. That means signing on to the fantasy football phenomenon isn’t a federal crime.
States have taken different positions, with some like Arizona and Washington currently considering it illegal gambling. Nevada considers it a gambling activity that would require a gaming license.
Here in New Mexico, the state Gaming Control Act defines prohibited gaming as “an activity in which, upon payment of consideration, a player receives a prize or other thing of value, the award of which is determined by chance even though accompanied by some skill.”
And that sounds like a duck.
With the NFL season started, this gray area needs some legal light shone on it for sports fans and gamblers alike. It’s a lucrative business: spending on fantasy sports in the U.S. and Canada hit $26 billion in 2015.
So is it legal here? Maybe, maybe not.
Attorney General Hector Balderas has been monitoring the activity for about a year and the state Gaming Control Board for even longer. Balderas appeared to be prepared to issue an opinion early this year when two bills were introduced in the Legislature that would have made clear it was legal – in the House by Republican Majority Leader Nate Gentry and in the Senate by Republican John C. Ryan. The attorney general was waiting for a formal request, but more pressing issues were at hand and the bills died. So no opinion so far, although House Speaker Don Tripp has since requested one.
In anticipation of this issue coming up again, it would be helpful for Balderas to issue his opinion, if, in fact, he has reached a conclusion. This would help guide legislators when they convene in January.
Someone needs to legally identify this duck.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.