Fantasy Operators Hit With Cease-And-Desist Letters in Florida Over Alleged Sports Betting Activity

Due to an ongoing court battle, there is no legal sports betting in Florida at the moment, but if there was, it would be exclusive to Hard Rock.

Last Updated: Sep 22, 2023 5:36 PM ET Read Time: 2 min
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Florida gaming regulators are ordering fantasy operators to shut down any alleged sports betting sites they may be running in the Sunshine State.

The executive director of the Florida Gaming Control Commission made the requests to Betr, PrizePicks, and Underdog Sports on Tuesday of this week, according to letters obtained and first published by the Florida Regulatory Watch. 

In the letters, the gaming regulator says they have received information "that your company may be offering or accepting illegal bets or wagers from Florida residents," and that they may be promoting and conducting an illegal lottery. 

"This alleged conduct is strictly prohibited in Florida and constitutes criminal activity," Florida Gaming Control Commission Executive Director Louis Trombetta wrote. "Accordingly... I am hereby demanding you immediately cease and desist offering or accepting bets or wagers from residents of this state on the results of any contests of skill such as sports betting, including, but not limited to, bets or wagers made in connection with fantasy sports." 

Trombetta made a similar request about "any illegal lotteries" the companies may allegedly be running. 

"Your failure to comply will result in the Florida Gaming Control Commission taking any and all appropriate action, including referring this matter to the Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution," the director added.

The alleged activity in the letters has not been proven in any court. What's more, a Florida gaming attorney operators are using on the matter says the regulator is casting a wide net.

"The Commission staff confirmed that the language in the letter broadly applies to all paid fantasy sports contests and they are not aware of any paid fantasy sports company operating legally in Florida," attorney John Lockwood said in a statement. "We disagree on the merits, and will be working with the commission and potentially the legislature so we can ensure Florida sports fans can continue to play."

Still, due to an ongoing court battle, there is no legal sports betting in Florida at the moment. Even if there were, the state’s laws mean it could only be offered exclusively by the Seminole Tribe and its Hard Rock Bet sportsbook.

Trombetta's letter notes that, in Florida, "sports betting may be lawfully conducted only pursuant to a gaming compact," like the one the Seminole struck with the governor in 2021.

The fantasy fight

But PrizePicks, for example, operates in numerous U.S. states, including Florida, offering a “pick ‘em” style of fantasy sports. That model, in which players wager on two to six outcomes, such as whether the Miami Dolphins' Tyreek Hill will gain more or less than 87.5 receiving yards on Sunday, has allowed it to operate in states without legal sports betting.

Watchdogs, however, have recently pushed back. In states such as Ohio, where PrizePicks does not operate, gaming regulators have complained about companies offering sports betting framed as fantasy. Some regulators are reportedly even taking steps similar to what Florida has done.

But DFS operators have pushed back against the pushback. Underdog Founder Jeremy Levine wrote recently that the scrutiny is "directly fueled" by the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel, neither of which said they were a recipient of a recent cease-and-desist letter from Florida authorities.

Moreover, Levine argued Underdog's products meet the legal definition of a fantasy sports contest, including that they are games based on skill.

“Regulators across the country - including in states where mobile sports betting is also legal - have concluded our games perfectly fit within the legal definition of fantasy sports,” Levine wrote

Levine also responded to the Florida Gaming Control Commission's letter on X, the former Twitter, on Friday, saying the regulator is claiming "all paid fantasy" violates state law, not just pick 'ems.

In other words, the crackdown launched in the Sunshine State could target season-long and daily-draft contests as well.

"We strongly disagree with their assessment," Levine added. "We will continue operating our fantasy contests in Florida as we engage with the Commission and elected officials."

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