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Question Before Lawmakers: Are Online Fantasy Sports Gambling?

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Attention fantasy sports players, the Minnesota House was debating Monday a bill to legalize online fantasy sports betting.

Currently, Minnesota – like many other states — simply doesn’t have laws regulating the new online fantasy sports phenomenon. But lawmakers are taking a much closer look at the games.

The wildly popular fantasy sports online sites require fans to pay a fee for selecting teams made up of different players, and competing in daily and weekly games against other fans.

In Minnesota, it’s big business.

“We have almost a million Minnesotans that are playing fantasy sports right now,” said Rep. Tim Sanders (R-Blaine). “They are not breaking any law. They are not doing anything that the law says they can’t do.”

The Minnesota bill would limit online players to 18-years of age and older.

It also would ban employees of fantasy sports companies from playing, after a scandal made it appear some of the games were rigged.

Although some states are taking legal action against fantasy sports companies, calling it illegal gambling, Minnesota supporters say that, technically, fantasy sports isn’t “gambling.”

“Fantasy sports are based on education, research, strategic skill and decision making,” Sanders said.

Still, others aren’t quite convinced.

“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck,” said John Helmberger of the Minnesota Family Council, a conservative policy group.

Critics say that it’s “legal fiction” to say fantasy sports isn’t illegal gambling.

“For every skilled player who wins, there have to be a lot of unskilled players who are taking a chance and losing,” said Jake Grassel of Citizens Against Gambling Expansion.

In other states, such as Texas, New York and Massachusetts, there are significant pushes to stop online fantasy sports.

Meanwhile, states like Colorado and Indiana are legalizing it.

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