By: Pat Coyne*

While five University of Richmond baseball players await a ruling from the NCAA for violations related to their alleged involvement in fantasy football, state legislatures around the country are gearing up to propose their own pieces of legislation to legalize daily fantasy sports. The players’ suspensions and the proposed legislation represent the ongoing discrepancy that exists between how sports leagues and legislatures approach forms of sports betting.

Last week it was announced that five University of Richmond baseball players would begin the season suspended by the NCAA.[1] The alleged violations are related to Bylaws 10.02.1 and 10.3 of the Summary of NCAA Regulations-Division 1 which states:

“You are not eligible to compete if you knowingly participate in any sports wagering activity that involves intercollegiate, amateur or professional athletics, through a bookmaker, a parlay card or any other method employed by organized gambling. Examples of sports wagering include, but are not limited to, the use of a bookmaker or parlay card; Internet sports wagering; auctions in which bids are placed on teams, individuals or contests; and pools or fantasy leagues in which an entry fee is required and there is an opportunity to win a prize.”[2]

The team has been relatively quiet about the matter, but sources have indicated to the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the players were involved in fantasy football and that their activity was reported directly to the NCAA.[3] For now, the players remain ineligible as they wait for the NCAA’s reinstatement process to be completed.[4]

Meanwhile, state legislature sessions around the country have begun with the start of the new year, and several states are planning to introduce legislation to legalize and regulate online daily fantasy sports (“DFS”) in their states. In Alabama, one of the several states where DraftKings and FanDuel do not operate, state Senator Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) has filed a bill to legalize participation in DFS.[5] The bill would “require fantasy sports websites operating in Alabama to register with the Secretary of State’s office and create a fund to collect fees and dues from participating companies.”[6] Alabama is not alone in its efforts, either. According to LegalSportsReport.com, nine other states legalized DFS in 2016 or earlier, and sixteen others have active legislation this year.[7]

The inconsistent approaches taken by the NCAA and by state legislatures on issues such as DFS sports serve as yet another example of how far lawmakers and sports leagues have to go before a uniform and fair approach is taken to these issues. As states around the country are seeking to regulate this rapidly emerging industry, NCAA athletes, such as those on the Richmond baseball team, stand to be caught in the middle of the DFS craze. Regarding the Richmond baseball team, there is certainly something to be said for the old adage that “rules are rules” and that the players should have, and perhaps even did, know that what they were alleged to be doing was wrong. However, it also should not be overlooked that in 2016 Virginia became the first state to pass a bill regulating DFS, which could lead a person to wonder what kind of message that sends to college athletes in the state.[8]


*Staff Writer, Villanova University Sports Law Society Blog; J.D. Candidate, May 2019, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.

[1] John O’Connor, Fantasy football involvement caused NCAA suspension of UR baseball players, Richmond Times-Dispatch (February 24, 2017), http://www.richmond.com/sports/fantasy-football-involvement-caused-ncaa-suspension-of-ur-baseball-players/article_accf2a40-b5c9-5e0e-8013-861d2a77e8d8.html?platform=hootsuite.

[2] Summary of NCAA Eligibility Restrictions-NCAA Division I, NCAA, https://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/2016-17_Summary_of_NCAA_Regulations_2016_17_20160531.pdf.

[3] John O’Connor, Fantasy football involvement caused NCAA suspension of UR baseball players, Richmond Times-Dispatch (February 24, 2017), http://www.richmond.com/sports/fantasy-football-involvement-caused-ncaa-suspension-of-ur-baseball-players/article_accf2a40-b5c9-5e0e-8013-861d2a77e8d8.html?platform=hootsuite.

[4] See id.

[5] Mitch Sneed, Whatley bill aims to legalize online fantasy sports, The Outlook (March 3, 2017), http://www.alexcityoutlook.com/2017/03/03/whatley-bill-aims-to-legalize-online-fantasy-sports/.

[6] See id.

[7] Dustin Gouker, Legislative Tracker: Daily Fantasy Sports, Sports Betting, Legal Sports Report (2016), http://www.legalsportsreport.com/dfs-bill-tracker/.

[8] Dustin Gouker, Virginia Governor Signs Fantasy Sports Bill; VA First State to Pass DFS Regulation, Legal Sports Report (March 7, 2016),  http://www.legalsportsreport.com/8873/virginia-governor-signs-dfs-bill/.

 

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