Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. called on the state attorney general Tuesday to file a legal challenge to daily fantasy sports operations, which would allow the courts to settle the murky issue of whether the games are permissible under Maryland law.
"The attorney general's going to have to file suit and take it to court," Miller said following a signing ceremony for unrelated legislation.
It was uncertain whether Attorney General Brian E. Frosh would heed Miller's suggestion.
"We can't comment on pending investigations or potential legal filings," Frosh spokeswoman Christine Tobar said Tuesday.
Miller made his comments the day after the General Assembly adjourned without taking final action on any of several bills regarding daily fantasy, a booming, multibillion-dollar industry that claims hundreds of thousands of Maryland players.
The inaction came despite the urging of the attorney general in January that lawmakers clarify daily fantasy's legal status.
In a Jan. 15 advisory opinion, Frosh's office said the games may not be legal under a 2012 state statute. The games have changed and expanded so substantially since the legislature authorized fantasy sports play that the law needs legislative review, wrote two lawyers in Frosh's office.
In fantasy games, participants select or "draft" actual players in football and other sports, accumulating points based on the players' statistical performances. Once known mainly as platforms for friends and relatives to play against each other over the course of weeks or months, it is now an intensely competitive industry supported not only by consumers but by substantial investments from media companies and professional sports leagues.
Miller sponsored a bill allowing voters to decide during November's election whether to legalize daily fantasy gaming. Another bill, from Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, a Prince George's County Democrat, would have banned daily fantasy in 2017 if voters didn't legalize the games. Neither measure passed the House, where Speaker Michael E. Busch said more information about possible new regulations is required. Maryland law currently grants regulatory authority over fantasy sports to the comptroller.
"You have to determine how you want to manage it — whether you want to run it through the lottery commission, whether you want to run it back through the existing casinos, whether you have to send it to referendum or not," Busch said early Tuesday morning. "So there's a lot of unanswered questions that I think can be resolved in the interim" between now and next year's legislative session.
In the meantime, lawmakers' attention will shift to Frosh.
"At this point the ball is in the attorney general's court," said Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat and co-chair of the joint gaming committee.
"I respect the attorney general a lot," said Luedtke, who has proposed allowing daily fantasy to continue with added consumer protections. "I happen to think it's legal, but ultimately its legality will be decided by the attorney general and the courts."
New York-based FanDuel and Boston-based DraftKings — whose operations have been challenged in other states — said in separate statements that they were pleased at the legislative result in Maryland and ready to work with lawmakers on consumer protection regulations.
The sports sites had lined up top lobbyists and attorneys before the session to build support for keeping the games going. FanDuel retained Baltimore attorney Stephen Martino, former director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, to work on regulatory and legal issues.
"There was an effort to treat fantasy sports like casino gambling and possibly deny Maryland the right to play fantasy sports. Fortunately, that effort has now been defeated," FanDuel's statement on Tuesday said.
Griffin Finan, DraftKing's public affairs director, said: "We are pleased that the House of Delegates rejected legislation that could have ended fantasy sports in Maryland."
Luedtke said Marylanders could continue to play while the issue is sorted out.
"Nobody is talking about players getting in trouble," he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.