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New Fantasy Football Law Legalizes Fantasy League Prizes

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By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 03, 2012 8:59 AM

Fantasy football players in Maryland can rejoice as the legislature has just made the friendly wagering legal in the state.

Until October 1, fantasy sports leagues in Maryland were technically illegal although it's unclear whether anyone was prosecuted under the rule. Earlier this year, the Maryland legislature passed a law which went into effect recently allowing fantasy football leagues to continue unimpaired.

Previous law didn't specifically ban fantasy sports leagues but they fell within the category of unlawful gambling which made them problematic.

Under Maryland law, gambling is any activity that requires decisions, the element of chance, and a prize, reports the Savage-Guilford Patch. That definition came from a court ruling in 2006 and unfortunately fantasy sports leagues do fall within it.

Rather than changing the law itself, Maryland's newly enacted legislation specifically exempts fantasy sports leagues from gambling.

Federal law and the majority of states law's outlaw gambling and Maryland is no different. But the majority of sports also exempt certain activities that could be seen as betting but are considered something else, such as fantasy football.

Both federal and state governments have the power to regulate betting because of their ability to regulate things related to commerce. The federal Constitution allows this for the federal government and many state constitutions have similar provisions.

Gambling involves money, or at least prizes that have monetary value, which makes them subject to regulation. But luckily for Maryland residents the state isn't interested in stopping fantasy leagues.

Under Maryland's new law, fantasy sports leagues are permitted so long as participants know the prize in advance and the winner is determined by statistics, reports the Savage-Guilford Patch.

The decision doesn't just affect friendly leagues among neighbors. Because of Maryland's restrictive laws, state citizens couldn't enter pools on websites such as ESPN which provide a prize to winners.

Now they'll be able to cash in on well-executed fantasy teams. But don't think this alters laws against sports betting. Maryland still prohibits any wagers on individual games.

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