Rep. Tyler Vorpagel, R-Plymouth, is circulating a bill for co-sponsorship that would legalize online gambling and represents the largest expansion of gambling in Wisconsin’s history.

The bill seeks to “legalize” and “regulate,” Daily Fantasy Sports, an online gambling operation seeking legitimacy in Wisconsin and elsewhere across the country. Wisconsin law prohibits online gambling. If Daily Fantasy Sports is legalized, Pandora’s online gambling Box is opened.

In response, Wisconsin Family Action and Citizens Against Expanded Gambling have launched a statewide campaign to oppose this massive expansion of gambling.  Combined, these two groups represent over 22,000 Wisconsin citizens who oppose any expansion of gambling. These citizens are being encouraged to contact their legislators and hold them accountable.  

Additionally, a digital awareness campaign, statewide robo-calls to citizens who oppose online gambling connected with a statewide tele-townhall briefing and legislative office visits are underway. The two organizations have held statewide information forums on this issue to educate citizens about the dangers of expanded gambling with an emphasis on legalizing Daily Fantasy Sports. To date, they have held 14 events with over 550 attending, and have several more scheduled for this fall.  

In an attempt to make Daily Fantasy Sports constitutionally permissible, LRB 2122 declares it to be a game of skill rather than a game of chance which, according to Representative Vorpagel, “clarify[ies] that these games of skill are allowed and not viewed as gambling.” However, Daily Fantasy Sports has all of the necessary components of gambling: It has consideration. It has a prize. And it has chance.

Daily Fantasy Sports have a fundamentally different relationship to chance than season-long fantasy sports leagues. On a given day an injury, a snowstorm, or a ball bouncing strangely could affect a Daily Fantasy Sports result. In this regard, placing a wager with a Daily Fantasy Sports operator is very similar to placing a bet with a bookmaker.

This bill is about giving the appearance of regulation on behalf of consumers. However, no consumer protection groups are advocating for this.  The so-called “consumer protections” are toothless, in place solely to give the appearance of consumer protection. This bill favors the gambling interests who stand to benefit from their structure of self-regulation.

In an effort to ensure that legislators fully understand the ramifications of the bill, Wisconsin Family Action and Citizens Against Expanded Gambling, issued a joint memorandum to all members of the legislature via email and conducted in-person office visits to each member of the legislature leaving behind a printed copy of the memo and related op-eds.

Gambling that involves the state receiving funds from the operation of the gambling is especially bad. Should this Daily Fantasy Sports bill pass, as with casinos and the lottery, the state will receive some revenue. The bill provides that Daily Fantasy Sports operators pay 3 percent of net revenue or $500 for startups. As in any gambling situation, in order for the state to win, its citizens must lose—and that should be a perverse notion for any government entity.  

In reality, the state essentially becomes an investor in the Daily Fantasy Sports businesses operating here in Wisconsin by providing a work-around to the State Constitution and making Daily Fantasy Sports legal. In return for its investment, the government will receive 3 percent of net revenue.  

Daily Fantasy Sports can be a particularly damaging form of illegal gambling precisely because its ease of access. And most importantly, it is extraordinarily difficult to verify the age of a gambler when they are nothing more than an online identity. This is  significant because Daily Fantasy Sports operators admit their target is young people.

This is a bill that needs to have a quick and sure death. It’s a bad deal for the state in every way. We definitely do not need every smart phone, tablet, laptop and desktop computer turned into a virtual casino.

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