The Legislation Has Passed the House Commerce Committee
By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
May 24, 2019
Anyone who believes that Daily Fantasy Sports is not gambling and that it can be legalized in North Carolina without harmful consequences is indulging in his own fantasy, says the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, in response to House Bill 929 – Gaming Commission, approved by the House Commerce Committee Wednesday and now in the hands of the Judiciary Committee.
“Just because the bill says these types of games ‘do not constitute gambling,’ does not make it so. That’s part of the fantasy here. It would be humorous if it wasn’t so misleading,” Creech said. “Proponents of this legislation say that it isn’t gambling because it takes skill to choose a winning team in fantasy sports. But with these daily games, any skill involved in choosing a virtual team is offset by the huge number of chance variables involved, from an athlete’s health to weather, field conditions or even bad calls by referees. The fact of the matter is the people who run DFS companies are really online gambling operators.”
Nonetheless, bill sponsor Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan) insisted during Wednesday’s committee hearing that the measure would not expand gambling, but is “simply organizing what is currently going on in the state,” by putting the lottery, boxing, bingo, raffles and daily fantasy sports “under one house, under one roof,” that of the North Carolina Gaming Commission. According to the bill, that body would be formed by the addition of four new members to the current Lottery Commission. It would then be tasked with overseeing the various forms of gambling and studying the feasibility of authorizing sports betting, steeplechases and video lottery terminals.
John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, pointed out the lack of logic in Warren’s pitch.
“If Daily Fantasy Sports is not gambling—or gaming—then why would it be added under the oversight of a Gaming Commission?” he asked the Committee, pointing out what he called the most striking part of the proposed legislation: “Fantasy contests conducted pursuant to this Article do not constitute gambling, lotteries, gaming, or any activity or enterprise subject to or prohibited by Chapter 14, 16, or 19 of the General Statutes, or any other provision of law.”
“This provision would completely exempt Daily Fantasy Sports gambling from the authority of all of these statutes, including the entirety of North Carolina’s Criminal Code in Chapter 14,” Rustin said. He further pointed out that the measure offers no regulation but simply requires these commercial gambling operations to register with the Gaming Commission.
“A registration under this bill lasts for five years, as do subsequent renewals, and once a registration is approved, there is no active monitoring, oversight or enforcement required by the bill,” Rustin said, although his pleas to the committee seemed to fall on deaf ears.
The few questions that lawmakers raised were simply to clarify the bill’s finer points regarding whether it would generate revenue through licensing fees or what the chances are that the bill could be altered to allow gamblers to deduct their “investments” from their winnings at tax time.
Although a few, such as Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union), mentioned that the Gaming Commission should “perhaps look at the impact any of these changes would have on our population insofar as gambling addiction,” no one seemed willing to push for an investigation into what studies have already been performed regarding the effects of DFS.
Had they checked, they would have found two recent studies — Daily Fantasy Football and Self-Reported Problem Behavior in the United States and Daily Fantasy Sports Players: Gambling, Addiction, and Mental Health Problems — that warn of what’s to come if the state gives its stamp of approval to this practice.
The first suggests that DFS participants “behave similarly with participants in other forms of gambling activities.” In addition, its findings suggest “additional consumer protections may be needed to prevent further problem behavior such as chasing.” The second revealed that “DFS players are characterized by high gambling frequency and problem severity and co-morbid problems, notably suicidal ideation.”
A third, more extensive examination of the issue by the Rutgers School of Social Work’s Center for Gambling Studies paints an even more bleak future for DFS gamblers.
“Nearly all DFS players (95%) in the study were high frequency/high risk gamblers who would likely meet criteria for gambling disorder and more than 84 percent gambled once a week or more,” Rutgers reported. “DFS players reported higher levels of substance use, behavioral problems and mental health issues than other non‐DFS gamblers. They were 13 times more likely to report suicidal ideation and nine times more likely to have attempted suicide compared to other gamblers.”
Further, researchers said their findings suggest that “DFS play is highly correlated with problem and disordered gambling and a host of other mental health problems.” Finally, they warned, “policy decisions regarding DFS regulation should anticipate a very high prevalence of gambling problems in this group and the negative consequences that typically accompany those problems such as employment, legal, relationship, financial, health and mental health problems. It is important to ensure there are prevention, education, and treatment resources developed for and available to this population.”
Dr. Creech said he is saddened, but not surprised, that legislators who support the measure are ignoring the public health ramifications of their actions, as many similarly have ignored public health warnings about recent plans to expand alcohol sales across the state.
“I am disappointed, sincerely disappointed, that the primary sponsors of this legislation are Republicans. And it’s a Republican majority on the House Commerce Committee that approved HB 929. Quite frankly, it is difficult for the Christian Action League to have to fight its friends who have been on the right side of so many other critical social issues in the past, including gambling,” he said Thursday. “But I am witnessing directional changes by Republicans on alcohol and gambling issues that are as slick as grease. As they expand gambling, they say it’s not really gambling. But then they place what they say isn’t gambling under the purview of a new Gaming Commission. They say we’re going to loosen the alcohol laws, but assure us that all the protections for public health and safety will still be in place, while the fence-lines they’re loosening or taking down are what provide protections for public health and safety. Let’s face it. They’re chasing the money with deceit dripping from their lips, foolishly ignoring both the morality and the harms connected with their proposals.”
“This kind of chicanery is what we fought against when the Democrats were in control before 2010,” he added. “Now we fight the Republicans, who are supposed to be our friends. Yes, I am disappointed! And some righteous indignation from our supporters is appropriate!”
Gambling opponents should reach out to their lawmakers and urge them to oppose House Bill 929, Creech said.
Take Christian Action:
Please contact your state Representative by email and urge him/her to vote “No” on HB 929.
If you don’t know who represents you in the North Carolina House, go to this link on the NCGA website: https://www.ncleg.gov/RnR/Representation
Then, do the following:
- Click on “NC House” in the left margin.
- Enter your residence address in the box in the right margin.
- Look back at where you first clicked on “NC House” in the left margin again, and you should see your House District sited and your State Representative’s name listed beside it.
- Click on the name of your state Representative. It should provide you with his or her contact information.
- Save this information to your computer so it will be easily accessible for future reference.
Message to your state Representative.
Tell your state Representative that you oppose HB 929. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is gambling and you do not wish to see further gambling in the state. Tell him/her that you aren’t fooled. The bill isn’t really even “regulation.” It is a clandestine political maneuver to legitimize another form of gambling in the state to capture state revenues. The history of gambling is a record of broken promises, broken dreams, and broken lives. Please vote against HB 929.