Legal milestone for games firm

New York ruling means it’s game on for FanDuel

Nigel Eccles officeFantasy sports firm FanDuel has received a huge boost to its prospects in the US after the games were given legal protection in New York.

A law was passed by the state legislature yesterday, lifting a ban on users playing daily fantasy sports games.

FanDuel, which is co-headquartered in Edinburgh and New York, had threatened to leave the state unless the law was passed.

The new law is a key milestone in months of wrangling over the legitimacy of the games which was sparked last autumn when providers of the games were accused of breaching US laws banning online gambling. The companies argued that they were not involved in gambling.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ordered a shutdown after claiming the games were illegal.

A number of states have now passed laws allowing the games to continue, but the decision of New York was always crucial as it accounts for a large proportion of users.

Last night, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill classifying the contests as “games of skill” — not illegal games of chance.

Under the bill, tax revenue from the games — estimated at $4 million a year — will help fund education initiatives.

In a statement, Mr Cuomo said: “Daily fantasy sports have proven to be popular in New York, but until now have operated with no supervision and no protections for players.

“This legislation strikes the right balance that allows this activity to continue with oversight from state regulators, new consumer protections and more funding for education.”

The new law includes crucial provisions to protect consumers, including the parental blocks and alert players if they’re going up against experienced, frequent winners, known in the industry as “sharks.”

FanDuel chief executive Nigel Eccles has always argued for regulation and consumer protection.

FanDuel logoResponding to New York’s decision, he said: “On behalf of more than three million fantasy players across the state and our entire company, we want to sincerely thank Governor Cuomo and members of the state legislature — led by bill sponsors Senator John Bonacic, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Speaker Carl Heastie — for bringing fantasy sports back to New York.

“This success in New York speaks to the strength and passion of our players who stood up and made their voices heard — and their elected leaders responded.”

He said New York marks a “capstone achievement” in a remarkable year for fantasy sports.

“Last fall, amidst national controversy, some pundits put fantasy sports on death watch,” he said.

“But when the calendar turned to 2016 and fantasy sports fans had the opportunity to be heard and legislators had the opportunity to act, the dynamic quickly shifted, and one by one states began to recognise this is a game loved by millions – millions who should be able to play and deserve the basic protections afforded to consumers in all major industries.”

Since January, eight states – Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, and now the Empire State – have passed laws clarifying the legality of fantasy sports and creating consumer protection regulations.

“This progress in such a short window of time, during a challenging time for tech companies, is a powerful statement about the extraordinary support for our industry. And we recognise that this success in our home state of New York and our snowballing success across the country is due to the advocacy, efforts, and unbending belief of our players, and we owe them incredible gratitude for their support of fantasy sports.

“With the future of fantasy sports affirmed in New York we expect our legislative momentum will only accelerate as more states address the issue. Fantasy sports fans: take comfort; FanDuel’s future is bright.”

The company this week rebranded and launched in the UK and will relocate to a new-build headquarters neighbouring its Quartermile offices in Edinburgh by the end of the year.

Photo: Nigel Eccles in the Edinburgh office (by Terry Murden)

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