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Legislators may take a chance on daily fantasy sports gambling

Two separate bills to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports and some other forms of gambling are moving through the legislature, but anti-gambling groups say they should be stopped.

Daily Fantasy Sports games were halted in New York, after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declared them illegal last fall. In March, the AG settled with the major companies,  Fan Duel and Draft King, saying the sites will continue to be banned until September, unless the legislature acts to regulate the on line gambling before the end of the legislative session later this month .

Now, the Senate and the Assembly are crafting bills to allow the sites to operate in New York once again.

Stephen Shafer, with the Coalition Against Gambling in New York, says the games are exploitative and in some cases, rigged against the players.

“Relatively inexperienced people are drawn in, usually by advertising” said Shafer, who said the companies use sophisticated algorithms to help them choose their teams, where they are often pitted against “ highly experienced people," where they stand little chance of winning any money.

“DFS is a hustle,” he said.

The companies have denied that their games are unfair.

The measures also regulate on line poker as well, and Shafer says the bills would greatly expand all types of on line gambling, which can be accessed through smart phones and all types of devices .

Under provisions of the bills,  the state would take in 15 percent of revenues gained from the fantasy sports  gambling, and companies would have to pay licensing fees, in some cases up to $100,000, under the Assembly version of the bill.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says the measure is advancing through his house. He says online gambling is occurring regardless of any prohibitions, and it’s best for the state to acknowledge that, and try to take control .

“I’m not a huge fan of gambling personally, because I do think that it can lead to other ills in society,” said Heastie, who said people gamble anyway, so it’s “important” for New York state to regulate it.

Speaker Heastie says there are differences between the Assembly and the Senate bills that he hopes can be worked out by the end of the session , scheduled for June 16th.

Shafer, with the Coalition Against Gambling, says  he worries the final resolution will come as part of the traditional end of session package of bills known as the “big ugly”, often approved in the middle of the night on the last day of the session.

“What I fear is that they’ll jam it into some omnibus bill at the end,” said Shafer. “So that you’d have to vote for it to get some other bill that you want.”

Meaning the on line gambling will become legal without any public discussion.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.