Fantasy sports soon could have a new reality in Ohio

By early 2018, the fantasy sports industry could be legal in Ohio, and thus be exempt from state gambling laws.

It's a development that would be welcomed by two of the titans of daily fantasy sports — DraftKings and FanDuel. And for Northeast Ohio resident Kevin Day, whose Fantasy Football Calculator doesn't fit the pay-to-play model that state legislators are seeking to regulate, it could be a sign of things to come.

Day's website, which he developed as a Case Western Reserve University engineering student 11 years ago, focuses primarily on fantasy football mock drafts. But he told state senators in a letter that was included in a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 19, that he hopes to expand his software and content to customers who compete in paid fantasy contests, and would "like the freedom" to run fantasy contests as his business grows.

"This legislation lets me build out tools around the contests and leaves the option open down the line (to host contests)," Day told Crain's.

The bill, which would result in the Ohio Casino Control Commission overseeing and licensing the for-profit fantasy sports industry, passed the state House by an overwhelming margin in May. It's now in the hands of the Senate, whose recent proponent hearing included letters of support from top executives of the Cincinnati Reds and Columbus Crew.

Rep. Jonathan Dever, R-Madeira, one of the sponsors of House Bill 132, said that, unlike gambling, fantasy sports falls into a bit of a "gray" area in which it was never properly defined by the state.

Legalizing the industry would accomplish that, Dever told Crain's, and "make sure there are protections for consumers" who are competing in pay-to-play games such as daily fantasy sports.

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