Fantasy Sports Notch Legal Win in Massachusetts

by | August 11, 2016 AT 12:10 PM

By Jordan Graham

A measure to legalize daily fantasy sports was tucked inside a nearly $1 billion economic development bill signed by Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday -- a move the CEO of DraftKings says will let the company add hundreds of jobs.

"We were really happy that we were included as part of the bill, and the language in there allows us to grow and flourish for many years to come in Massachusetts," Jason Robins, chief executive of DraftKings, said in an interview after Baker signed the bill. "We want to get up to 1,000 plus in the next two to three years, and this legislation should help us do that."

DraftKings, based in Boston, has about 300 employees in Massachusetts today.

"It takes away any ambiguity or uncertainty as to the legality of daily fantasy sports," said state Rep. Joseph Wagner, co-chairman of the House Economic Development Committee. "We've legalized casinos and a slots facility in Massachusetts, the treasurer is talking about online lottery and in the context of all those things it perhaps makes sense to have a discussion about daily fantasy sports."

Attorney General Maura Healey issued regulations earlier this year, based on her reading of Massachusetts law, but the bill signed yesterday makes clear the games are legal.

"What we were doing was simply taking what the attorney general put out there as sort of directional guidance and turned it into a statute so a company like Draft-Kings, which is a big and successful player in the consumer online business, can continue to be headquartered here in the commonwealth," Baker said.

Daily fantasy sports sparked a heated debate over the past year, when DraftKings and rival FanDuel blitzed the airwaves with ads.

After Healey released her regulations, DraftKings continued to lobby the Legislature for explicit legalization, including sending a pair of letters to the House and Senate signed by four of the biggest tech advocacy groups in the state.

"Boston and Massachusetts is the number one place in the world to grow a tech company," Robins said. "We want to be a part of that for a long, long time and this legislation really makes that a certainty."

The bill legalizes the games for two years, and calls for a commission made up of legislators and industry representatives to file a report on legislative recommendations for daily fantasy sports beyond that.

"There would probably be legislation, I would guess, when the next session starts in January," Baker said.

(c)2016 the Boston Herald