Fantasy sports betting debated; refugee restrictions heard


February 22nd, 2016


Nebraska state senators today debate whether or not to regulate fantasy sports betting, and hear a proposal requiring refugee resettlement agencies be ready to pay up to $25 million for damage caused by refugees

Sen. Tyson Larson is sponsoring the bill to regulate fantasy sports betting sites like FanDuel and DraftKing. His bill would require companies register with the Department of Revenue and make efforts to ensure players are not betting in pools where other entrants can pay companies to make thousands of entries on their behalf, thus skewing the odds against individual players.

Larson estimated 300,000 Nebraskans already play fantasy sports. “This is about consumer protection. This is about insuring that 300,000 Nebraskans are not taken advantage of by a player in New York or by a player in Maryland,” Larson said.

Larson says fantasy sports are a game of skill, depending on participants’ knowledge of the players and sport. But Sen. Ernie Chambers said companies had not applied for licenses in Nevada because that state recognized their product for what it is. “They know that what they’re doing is gambling. The Nevada (Gaming) Commission knows that it’s gambling. And the only ones who want to say that it’s not are rubes in Nebraska who are trying to trick the Legislature into believing this is not gambling,” Chambers said.

Sen. Colby Coash objected that the anti-gambling group Gambling with the Good Life was mischaracterizing the issue. “That’s all that Gambling with the Good Life is going to tell you: ‘This is expanded gambling. It’s not. This is regulating something that is already here,” Coash said.

Sen. David Schnoor of Scribner objected to another section of the bill he said would enable people to gamble using credit cards. “We could call this whatever we want, but the facts are the facts. We can’t allow stuff like this to happen,” Schnoor said. “The consumer protection is making sure that this doesn’t go through.”

Lawmakers adjourned for the day before reaching a vote on the bill. Debate is expected to resume Monday.

Friday afternoon, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a proposal by Sen. Bill Kintner to require refugee resettlement agencies certify they can pay as much as $25 million for damages caused by people they resettle in Nebraska. The requirement would apply to people from 36 countries the bill describes as “high risk,” including Syria.

“We want to make sure that the people coming into our state are not going to cause any problems. And the only thing we can do is we can regulate the groups here in our state. We cannot do anything about bad federal programs. So the only option we have is to deal with the groups in our state that have contracted with the federal government,” Kintner said.

Asked if the $25 million requirement was so high it would stop refugee resettlement, Kintner said he doesn’t know. “I’m not an insurance guy. I don’t know if they can afford it or not. But we certainly want them to pause what they’re doing, look at what they’re doing, and reevaluate what they’re doing,” he said.

Greg Schleppenbach of the Nebraska Catholic Conference said the requirement would stop the refugee resettlement efforts of Catholic Social Services, which last year resettled 180 refugees, mostly in Lincoln and Hastings. “This bill, if it was enacted, would cause them to have to stop providing refugee resettlement services. They simply could not afford to have that kind of liability insurance,” Schleppenbach said.

And Schleppenbach said concerns about refugees threatening public safety should be directed elsewhere. “Our agencies contract to settle these, or resettle these individuals, and we rely upon the federal government to make sure that they are individuals who are not going to be problematic. So if there is concern there that concern should be expressed to the federal government, not putting this burden on these local charitable agencies that help resettle refugees,” he said.

Kintner says his bill does not have a priority, and Sen. Bob Krist said it won’t get out of the Judiciary Committee this year. But Kintner says it’s important to start discussing the issue. “I am confident at this point, this year, right now we have nothing to fear. The people coming in have been in refugee camps for a year and half. I know ISIS was not putting people in these camps a year and a half ago. So you’re there for a while, then we bring you in. So it’s going to be a future problem. I’m pretty glad it’s not an immediate problem, he said.

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