A group of New Yorkers filed a lawsuit on October 5, 2016 in the New York Supreme Court, challenging a recently enacted law allowing daily fantasy sports (DFS) in the Empire State. DFS are a subset of online fantasy sports in which players compete by building a team of professional athletes from a specific sports league, like the NFL or the NBA, and earn points based upon the performance of their team as a whole. DFS are structured in the form of paid competitions whereby the winner takes home a predetermined amount of money collected from entry fees. The recently passed law, Chapter 237, was enacted in order to legalize and regulate interactive fantasy sports. According to Legal Sports Report, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit contend that Chapter 237 violates Article 1 § 9 of the New York State Constitution. They argue that the DFS, as defined in the new law, is expressly prohibited by the New York State Constitution. In response, a spokesperson for the widely popular web-based fantasy sports sites FanDuel and DraftKings defended the legality of DFS stating , “the [New York] state constitution specifically gives the legislature the power to define what is – and what is not – gambling.” This suit presents significant legal questions for the New York Supreme Court in the coming months, including if the legislature will simply declare what is and what is not gambling and whether the legislature has the power to make such a declaration without amending the constitution.
If those legal questions are not interesting enough, the NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is currently defending the legalization and regulation of DFS, once sought to stop the operations of web-based DFS companies claiming that, “DFS is nothing more than a rebranding of sports betting. It is plainly illegal.”
Nick Aquart is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).
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