Committee hears bill hoping to exempt fantasy sports as gambling

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Progress and Development Committee held a hearing Wednesday at the Missouri state capitol, listening to a bill from Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, exempting fantasy sports from Missouri's gambling laws.

Witnesses in favor of the bill spoke in front of the committee saying fantasy sports are "entertainment and pure fun," compared to gambling. Witnesses also said fantasy sports "require skill" rather than rely on chance.

No one testified against Schaefer's bill.

Tim Jensen, CEO of RealTime Fantasy Sports, said, "I think this is just the first of many bills across all 50 states that will fully legalize fantasy sports for the fantasy player," Jensen said. "I think it will bring important consumer protections into the industry."

When asked why critics call fantasy sports gambling, Jensen said he believes people envision fantasy sports to be larger than it is. He said the industry is, simply, not that big. 

"Most people who play fantasy sports play with their buddies or their friends at the office or in the college dormitory, etc.," Jensen said. "Very small percentage actually play with an entry fee with a chance to win prizes." 

Charlie Wiegert, CEO of CDM Sports, also spoke in favor of the bill.

"Fantasy sports games have always been considered to be legal in the state of Missouri," Wiegert said. "We were here in support of the bill to clarify that fantasy sports games are legal and that they remain legal form people to be able to play." 

Wiegert said his company has been operating for over 20 years. He said in 2006, the government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, defining what constitutes legal fantasy sports games. He said his company had performed under those legal premises even before the act was passed.