PHOENIX — Leave it to Arizona to spoil the fun.
Just when you think the fantasy football team you drafted may win the championship this year, news comes that you may have just broken the law.
Under federal law, it’s totally legal to pay money to join a fantasy football league and for that league to have a cash payout to winners.
But Arizona is one of five states that makes it illegal under state law. That’s because Arizona law considers fantasy football a “game of chance,” which is illegal under Arizona gambling laws.
The exact state statutes that govern fantasy football, NCAA tournament brackets or any other fantasy sports is ARS 13-3301. Under ARS 13-3303, any website that provides fantasy advice for a fee and is accessible to a resident of Arizona, is committing a Class 5 felony.
Valley attorney Travis Leach says the commissioner, or person who runs your league, is the one who is most likely to get into trouble.
“Anyone that accepts a fee for admission, then runs the contest, and there’s a potential for a prize at the end, are the folks that would be really facing the penalties,” he said.
Leach said not to worry, though. He doesn’t think anyone’s been prosecuted in Arizona.
But it did happen in another state over 20 years ago.
“It involved a fireman in the state of Florida named Randy Bramos,” said Mark Edelman, a law professor at the Zickland School of Business in New York. “My understanding is that case, which was brought in 1991, was ultimately dropped.”
But before it was dropped, Bramos lost his job and ran up over $30,000 in legal fees. Two attorneys who were also fantasy football fans eventually agreed to defend Bramos free of charge.
Information as to why the charges were brought against Bramos and why they were dismissed were not available.
A valley attorney is leading a fight to convince Arizona legislature to overturn the laws pertaining to fantasy sports. In a 2012 post on the website FootballGuys.com, Garrick A. McFadden tried to rally other fans and get meetings with Arizona lawmakers to have the laws changed.
He told KTAR on Tuesday that he had to put the fight on hold because of a new baby in his family. After we contacted him, he said that he is “inspired” to renew the effort.
He believes that overturning the laws could have financial benefits to the state, because fantasy football organizations would be likely to hold their conventions here once the gaming became legal. McFadden also thinks that if Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature would band together to overturn the fantasy sports laws, they may find that they can work together to solve Arizona’s more important problems.
McFadden is concerned with fantasy games on websites like CBSSports.com and ESPN.com. He says people don’t read “fine print” on those websites that says that Arizona residents are not eligible to win prizes. People from Arizona are still entering the contests and paying their money, even though they have no chance to win. He noted that the websites should be required to repay the money.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has not yet returned our calls for comment on this story.