MADISON— Big-time online
fantasy sports sites could operate legally in Wisconsin if
their founders pay the state thousands of dollars in
registration fees under a bill a Republican lawmaker
Rep. Tyler Vorpagel's
proposal calls for anyone who offers fantasy games for a
cash prize to more than 750 people to register with the
state Department of Financial Institutions. The initial
registration fee would be $150,000. Annual renewals would
The bill would specify that
fantasy sports games aren't betting or lotteries, allowing
operators to run them legally in the state. Current
Wisconsin law prohibits making a bet, conducting a lottery
or engaging in other gambling activities.
Vorpagel, a freshman
legislator from Plymouth, wrote in a memo seeking
co-sponsors that a federal law passed in 2006 that generally
outlaws online gambling permits fantasy sports games as
contests of skill but defers to state law.
"I think it's important
to clarify that these games of skill are allowed and not
viewed as gambling," Vorpagel wrote. A Vorpagel aide
didn't immediately respond to an email requesting an
interview with the lawmaker.
The Fantasy Sports Trade
Association, an organization that promotes the fantasy
sports industry, also didn't immediately respond to an email
seeking comment on the bill.
The dispute over whether
online fantasy sports constitute gambling has heated up in
New York Attorney General
Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit in December to stop
fantasy websites FanDuel and DraftKings from operating in
that state, alleging the companies are operating illegal
gambling operations. The attorney general amended the
lawsuit this month to demand the two companies return money
to users who lost it in 2015 and pay a fine of up to $5,000
per case. DraftKings' attorney has called the lawsuit
Nevada regulators ordered
daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel to
shut down in October, saying the sites can't operate there
without a gambling license.
Illinois Attorney General
Lisa Madigan issued an opinion in December that fantasy
sports betting amounts to illegal gambling in that state.
FanDuel and DraftKings have sued over the opinion, arguing
it could destroy a legitimate industry. Democratic Illinois
state Rep. Mike Zalewski has introduced a bill similar to
Vorpagel's that would legalize fantasy sports in that state.
The prospects for Vorpagel's
bill are unclear. Spokeswomen for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald didn't
immediately respond to an email inquiring about the bill's
The proposal is the latest in
a blizzard of legislation Republicans have introduced as the
session winds down and they prepare to hit the campaign
trail. Vos has said he wants the Assembly to wrap up its
work by the end of February; Fitzgerald hopes to finish by