Prop-style fantasy sports proponents took aim at the NC Lottery Commission’s first batch of sports betting and parimutuel horse wagering rules at a public hearing on Oct. 27.
The meeting, held at the NC Lottery Commission’s headquarters in Raleigh, drew a small crowd and only two speakers–both representing pick ‘em-style fantasy sports brands–spoke out on the first batch of rules.
The NCLC will allow public comments on the first batch of North Carolina online sports betting rules and regulations through online submissions to its public comment webform through Nov. 1. At that point it will reconvene, codify any changes to the first batch of rules and propose further rules and regulations.
The commission, led by Deputy Executive Direction Sterl Carpenter, appears focused on launching the state’s online sports betting industry by the June 14, 2024 deadline.
PrizePicks and Underdog lawyers contest “fantasy” definitions
Attorneys for two top fantasy-versus-house brands, Nick Green (Underdog Fantasy) and Tom Lee (PrizePicks), addressed the NCLC during Friday’s meeting.
Addressing vagueness in the new definitions of “fantasy sports” put forth by the commission, Green stated “it’s very difficult to even determine what kind of fantasy contest would even be allowed under the rules. What does it mean to mimic a proposition selection, for example? What does it mean to have an athlete that surpasses an identified benchmark? None of which are contemplated in the statute.”
Green was referring to Rule 1A-001 Definitions (no. 18), which states that fantasy contests do not include any contests “based on proposition wagering or contests that involve, result in, or have the effect of mimicking proposition wagering or other forms of Sports Wagering;” or “in which an Individual chooses, directly or indirectly, whether individuals or a single real-world team will surpass an identified statistical achievement, such as points scored.”
Fantasy brands under fire across the country
This critique comes as states nationwide crack down on Underdog and other fantasy brands that allow players to pick fantasy winners based on proposition-style categories. Maine, New York, Michigan, Colorado and Wyoming have all taken positions to limit or shut down these fantasy brands.
Lee, an attorney representing Atlanta-based PrizePicks, spoke to the changes this set of rules makes to House Bill 347, the sports betting law passed this summer.
“Price Picks is operated lawfully in North Carolina since 2020. We have hundreds of thousands of customers in this state. This proposed law says (to) those North Carolinians ‘You’re doing something wrong. You’re doing something that you should not be allowed to do. This commission intends to stop it’ and that respectfully is wrong.”
HB 347 laid out broad parameters for fantasy sports, including contests in which “one or more fantasy contest players compete and winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the fantasy contest players and are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the performance of individuals, including athletes in the case of sporting events.”
To be clear, North Carolina does not have a specific law on the books legalizing fantasy sports. The language in HB 347 and the definitions in this round of rules provide some of the only legal parameters for the industry.
Lee’s position echoes the Coalition For Fantasy Sports, a collective that represents Underdog, PrizePicks and other fantasy brands. He argues that the NC Lottery Commission’s new batch of rules represents a bit of goalpost shifting of the state’s position on fantasy-versus-house brands.
Public comment period culminates Nov. 1
The first round of public comment on rules and regulations concludes on Wednesday, Nov. 1. That is the deadline for people to submit their comments online on the first batch of sports betting rules.
For people interested in participating, NCSharp has explained how to submit a public comment.
The NCLC has not yet posted the next meeting date. It should follow soon after and consider commentary on the first round of rules and a proposed second round of rules.