Are daily fantasy games legal in Hawaii? - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Are daily fantasy games legal in Hawaii?

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

It's almost impossible to watch a sporting event without seeing the ads.

FanDuel and DraftKings are spending big bucks promoting their one-day fantasy game sites. Big winners are announcing all the money they've won and big name sports stars -- like Rob Gronkowski -- are pushing the companies. 

The advertising is working. Millions nationwide are now playing, including Hawaii residents.

"I put in about $25 and I have a rolling balance of about $50," said DraftKings player Josh Benton.

"I'm up $8," said FanDuel player Tommy Mazzarella proudly. "I'm trying not to let it go to my head."

But are one-day fantasy games considered gambling, which is illegal in Hawaii?

First off, let's look at how fantasy games work: Players choose a contest to buy into. There's football, baseball, hockey, even mixed martial arts. You can pay as little as a quarter or as much as tens of thousands of dollars. Once you buy in, you build your team using fake money. Because you have a salary cap, you have to budget. Big name players mean you will have to fill your roster with less talented players, too. Rankings determine how much money you win and there are multiple winners per game.
"Out of 230,000 players, I came in 55,000th," said Mazzarella, about his first week playing an NFL contest. "I'm going to hang that on the refrigerator."

So should Hawaii players be worried? Attorney Victor Bakke, citing a 2006 federal law, doesn't think so, "Under federal law it's completely legal. And under state law, it's legal in 45 out of the 50 states.

Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Washington have banned the one-day fantasy games for money, defining it as gambling. Residents in those states can only play the free games.

"It hasn't been challenged, so in Hawaii it appears to be legal," says Bakke, "The whole thing for most of these states is, it comes down to if it's a game of skill or a game of chance."

Participants all say skill is a factor because you have to study your players, knowing which ones are hurt, which ones play better at home, and which teams have better defense. But all agree that luck does play a role because players can get hurt on the first play of the game.

Bakke says Hawaii residents who use FanDuel and DraftKings don't have anything to worry about -- for now. 

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