Cease and desist: Florida warns three fantasy sports betting apps to shut down

by | Sep 23, 2023

  • Florida Gaming Control Commission issues cease-and-desist letters to three daily fantasy sports operators over potential illegal sports betting activities.
  • Notably, FanDuel and DraftKings, major players in the industry, have not been targeted by the Commission.
  • The regulatory actions extend beyond daily fantasy games and affect various forms of paid fantasy sports contests, raising concerns about the future of sports wagering in Florida.

Florida’s ongoing struggle with the legality of sports betting took an ugly turn this week when the Florida Gaming Control Commission sent cease-and-desist letters to three daily fantasy sports operators, but did not single two of the largest players. The letters, targeted at Underdog Sports, PrizePicks, and celebrity-backed Betr, alleged that these companies may be involved in illegal sports betting activities in the state.

So far, at least, FanDuel and DraftKings, which also operate real-money fantasy sports apps, have apparently not been targeted by the Florida Gaming Control Commission.

According to the letters first made public by Florida Regulatory Watch, Louis Trombetta, the Executive Director of the Florida Gaming Control Commission, warned the companies about their potentially illegal operations.

“I am hereby demanding you immediately cease and desist offering or accepting bets or wagers from residents of this state on the results of any contests of skill such as sports betting,” Trombetta wrote.

Failure to comply could lead to certain actions, including the case being referred to the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, he added.

An attorney working closely with the targeted companies said they would work with the commission to ensure their customers can continue to play fantasy sports.

But the Commission’s move seems to extend beyond just daily fantasy games. Emails obtained by News Service of Florida suggest that the legal conclusions of the letters apply to all forms of paid fantasy sports contests, affecting companies like Underdog Sports which offer a variety of such games. This comes at a time when the football season is gaining momentum, potentially affecting season-long fantasy sports.

Despite the ongoing court battles involving the Seminole Tribe’s exclusive right to offer sports betting in Florida, the Commission’s crackdown suggests a zero-tolerance stance toward other forms of wagering as well. In fact, Trombetta’s letters explicitly state that under Florida law, sports betting can only be conducted pursuant to a gaming compact like the one signed with the Seminole Tribe in 2021.

Jeremy Levine, Founder of Underdog Sports, contested the allegations, saying that their products meet the legal definition of a fantasy sports contest and are based on skill, not chance. Levine went on to allege on social media that the scrutiny is “directly fueled” by DraftKings and FanDuel, major players in the industry, which notably did not receive cease-and-desist letters.

While big names like DraftKings and FanDuel remain untouched, other emerging players like Betr, which recently launched a micro-betting focused app, now find their plans for Florida stifled by the new regulatory actions. Betr was founded in 2022 by Joey Levy and internet celebrity-turned-boxer Jake Paul. The company aspires to revolutionize the traditional betting experience and has plans for real-money betting in select states other than Florida, pending regulatory approval.

This regulatory sweep happens at a crucial juncture as a legal battle over a 2021 compact that would have given the Seminole Tribe exclusive control over sports betting in the state continues. With multiple facets of sports betting and fantasy sports now under scrutiny, it’s clear that the Florida Gaming Control Commission is taking a hardline stance, raising questions about the future of sports wagering in the state.


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