Regulate fantasy sports? It’s ‘Mutant GuvCo Syndrome’

A North Carolina House bill would require operators of fantasy games like DraftKings to pay a fee to the state.
A North Carolina House bill would require operators of fantasy games like DraftKings to pay a fee to the state. AP

There are a lot of big, important things happening these days.

Things our president is up early in the morning watching “Fox and Friends” and Tweeting over. Things that have our Democratic governor whizzing in the wind in a room full of Republicans. Things that find Charlotte’s mayor across the globe discussing with the Chinese.

Yet what I can’t get off my mind is a small story I saw in the Raleigh News and Observer: “Fantasy Sports Could Be Regulated Under New N.C. House Bill.”

We don’t often catch Mutant GuvCo Syndrome at such an early stage, so it’s important we take a close look.

House Bill 279 would put the N.C. Secretary of State’s office in charge of regulating the growing Fantasy Sports Industry. This is where participants in on-line “leagues” field their own virtual teams made up of real players in a sport such as football, and compete with other participants’ teams. The virtual games are scored based on how the real-life athletes actually perform.

An inquiring mind might wonder what it is about “the growing fantasy sports industry” that needs regulating.

Even though entry fees are often paid and cash prizes won, the bill, sponsored by Representative Jason Saine of Lincolnton, says right off that fantasy games do not constitute gambling, lotteries, or gaming. That’s because winning is determined based on participants’ skill at picking the players who have the best actual game-day performance. There’s no random “chance” in the gambling sense.

On top of that, the proposal wouldn’t have much if any impact on the fantasy sports games. In fact, Representative Saine says it’s just “so we know exactly what’s going on.” That way, IF any actual changes are ever needed, “we’ve got a framework.”

Well if it’s not gambling and the regulations don’t do any real regulating, what specifically will happen as a result of this new law?

The people running the fantasy sports games will have to register with the Secretary of State and pay a fee of $2,500 to $10,000 a year.

It’s a tale as old as time. There’s something going on lots of people are having a good time with, so GuvCo wants its cut.

What’s ironic is, Representative Saine is a Republican.

Once upon a time Republicans believed it wasn’t for government to make up laws just in case there’s a problem. Once upon a time Republicans believed in using existing laws to deal with problems that arise, even criminal behavior, until it’s crystal clear a specific new law is needed. Once upon a time Republicans believed it was wrong for government to throw up red tape and regulations to impede business or consumers or justify collection of a fee. Once upon a time, Republicans claimed they were the antidote to Mutant GuvCo Syndrome.

Once upon a time.

Observer contributor Keith Larson can be heard weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on