Attorney general: Daily fantasy sports contests illegal under Hawaii law

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin issued a formal advisory opinion Wednesday stating that daily fantasy sports contests, such as those run by FanDuel and DraftKings, constitute illegal gambling under existing state laws.

“Gambling generally occurs under Hawaii law when a person stakes or risks something of value upon a game of chance or upon any future contingent event not under the person’s control,” said Chin. “The technology may have changed, but the vice has not.”

Nearly sixty million Americans participate in fantasy sports, with the vast majority playing in a league with friends or colleagues that might be considered “social gambling,” which is legal in Hawaii.

In contrast, daily fantasy sports contests typically involve competitions between hundreds or thousands of people, are played daily, involve wagers of up to $1,000, and allow each individual multiple entries leading to top prizes of up to $1 million.

“Hawaii is generally recognized to have some of the strictest anti-gambling laws in the country,” said Chin.

By statute the Attorney General provides opinions upon questions of law submitted by the Governor, the state legislature or its members, or a state agency head. The Department of the Attorney General is weighing next steps, including civil or criminal enforcement, consistent with its opinion.

While the attorney general says it is illegal to use these sites in Hawaii, state lawmakers are also taking a closer look.

They’ve introduced a bill that would establish fantasy competition as a violation of gambling laws.

But another bill would allow people to play fantasy contests, but there will be regulations.

“I think if people are going to keep playing these games I think we need to take a closer look at whether we can accommodate that,” said Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran, the Judiciary and Labor Committee Chair.

KHON2 reached out to both FanDuel and DraftKings, and we received this statement from DraftKings:

“We respectfully disagree with the Attorney General’s opinion…We intend to continue our constructive work with lawmakers in the state…to see to it that fans are able to continue to enjoy the fantasy sports contests…”

– Randy Mastro, Counsel for DraftKings

As for enforcing the laws, the Attorney General Chin says, “our office is not so much focused on going after residents that are participating we are more focused on the businesses that are trying to operate these gambling operations.”

Now once again online fantasy sports leagues are legal if they do not involve gambling.

Click here to view the opinion in its entirety.

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