Virginia Attorney General questions legality of fantasy sports

Virginia AG Jason Miyares
Image: Shutterstock / The Old Major

A new opinion from Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is the latest document to question the legality of props-style fantasy sports.

In the opinion, Miyares says that pick’em fantasy violates the state’s Fantasy Contests Act.

“A ‘fantasy contest’ is one in which multiple individual contestants earn points based on the statistical, not actual, results of athletes’s performances and a contestant wins upon garnering more points than the other contestants. The contest operator, or ‘the house’, is not intended to be one of the individual contestants in a multi-player fantasy contest,” Miyares wrote.

Miyares is the latest to suggest that the “against the house” element of some DFS offerings is in conflict with the law. In Virginia, the language used to govern fantasy is similar to the language laid out in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). In that language, it says, “participants compete against each other and winners are determined based on accumulation of statistical performance.”

Miyares added that, though the house element was one factor in his opinion, it was not the only one.

“Although the fact that individual contestants are not competing against each other is critical to this determination, I further conclude that, to the extent contest results hinge solely on individual performance metrics stemming from a single sports event, the contest also falls outside the definition of ‘fantasy contests’ and instead constitutes sports betting.”

Like any other AG opinion, Miyares’s assessment of the contests is not legally binding and does not change the current law. In fact, the very games Miyares says are illegal in his mind are indeed licensed and regulated by the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP), which has overseen fantasy sports since they were legalized in the state in 2016.

SBC Americas reached out to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees OCRP, but they declined to comment on the issue.

Operators like Underdog and Sleeper that offer these contests remain operational in the state.

“We disagree with the Attorney General’s opinion and look forward to continuing our positive working relationship with our governing agencies in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The opinion does not supersede the licensing process in place as established by the Virginia General Assembly. The OCRP is responsible for administering the Fantasy Contests Act in the Commonwealth. Our member companies are licensed and continue to operate legally in Virginia,” said Coalition for Fantasy Sports spokesperson Allison Harris.

Virginia Delegate Wren Williams was the lawmaker who requested the opinion from the AG on the topic. The Republican has been in the House of Delegates since 2022. Looking at his charitable donations, Williams has accepted donations from both Bally’s Corporation and Betting on Virginia Jobs, a lobbying group largely funded by Hard Rock and the group behind the Hard Rock Bristol casino project.