On Wednesday, March 1, the Senate Tourism & Marketing Committee was supposed to hold a public hearing on SB28 (sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley) which would legalize internet/online gambling in the form of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). The meeting was cancelled and “rumor has it” that this bill is not the one that the DFS companies want. So, two new DFS bills have been introduced in both the Senate (SB270, sponsored by Sen. Paul Sanford) and in the House (HB354, sponsored by Rep. Alan Boothe). This is not seasonal (or league) fantasy sports played between friends and family – this is DAILY Fantasy Sports, played by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, in which people often lose thousands of dollars every day! DFS, if legalized, would essentially put a casino in the homes and on the mobile devises of every citizen in Alabama, including children and young people.
Last year, the Attorney General’s office banned DFS from being played in Alabama and the Alabama House of Representatives could not get enough votes to pass the legislation to make it legal, but now the push to legalize it has been renewed. This push to legalize DFS is taking place in state legislatures across the nation because companies, such as FanDuel and DraftKings, stand to make millions of dollars by deceiving people into believing that they can be “big winners.” States that have Class III gambling (lotteries and/or casinos) have either banned DFS or they have required the companies to meet the same standards as other forms of gambling, acknowledging that DFS is, indeed, gambling.
I would encourage you to watch the documentary, “The Fantasy Sports Gamble” on the PBS program, “Frontline,” (produced last year) to learn more about the addictive nature of DFS. About 43 minutes and 15 seconds into the program, there is an interview with a young man from Auburn, AL who lost $20,000 playing DFS. You can click here to watch the documentary. After watching the program, call your legislators and let them know of your opposition to SB 28, SB270 and HB354. To read more about the dangers of DFS, click here for a report from www.StopPredatoryGambling.org.
Other pro-gambling bills are “on hold” until the Governor’s Advisory Council on Gaming (Gambling) makes their final report and recommendations. We anticipate that the last half of the Regular Session (which will come after the first of April) will see a flurry of activity focused on gambling. Legislators are still telling me that the vast majority of people from whom they are hearing are in favor of legalizing a state-sponsored lottery. It is important that those who oppose state-sponsored lotteries and state-sanctioned casinos, as well as Daily Fantasy Sports online/internet gambling, contact their legislators and get others to do the same.
On a different issue, ALCAP worked this week with the Alabama Christian Education Association’s executive director, Robin Mears, and our own ALCAP legal advisor, Eric Johnston, to protect both children and religious freedom in this state. Rep. Pebblin Warren has introduced a bill (HB277) that will require church daycare programs to be licensed by the state. We commend Rep. Warren for wanting to protect children and their parents from “fly-by-night” daycares that are being established in the name of “bogus” or “pseudo” churches, but we also want to protect legitimate churches from government overreach into the ministries of those local churches. Mr. Johnston and Mr. Mears believe there is a better solution to the problem than to require church daycare ministries to be licensed by the state. We are working with Rep. Warren and other organizations that are concerned about this issue to come up with a bill that will accomplish both goals.
Continue to pray for and contact your legislators as the 2017 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature moves forward.