For the first time last year, like many others — I presume thanks to an in-your-face-every-15-seconds advertising campaign — I decided to give the phenomenon known as daily fantasy sports a try. Let's just say I lost more than I won, but I had fun playing.

Maryland voters might get a say in whether I and tens of thousands of other state residents get a chance to play in the future. Earlier this week, state senators voted 46-0 on two bills that would send to a voter referendum the issue of whether daily fantasy games should be legal in Maryland. If it doesn't pass, the games would be illegal in 2017. The House has yet to take up the legislation, but presumably one of the two bills will make it through. If so, Maryland will become the first state to let voters decide whether daily fantasy sports are legal.


If you don't know, daily fantasy sports essentially boils down to this: You choose a lineup of professional sports players, who earn points based on their performances in the games that day or week, in the case of football. You have to fill a certain number of positions, with each player costing a certain amount against a budget of mythical dollars. Some contests involve simply finishing in the top half to double your money, while others offer larger prizes depending on the order of finish, among hundreds of other lineups.

While I wasn't particularly successful playing daily fantasy football last year, and I'm not sure I'll play again, I hope enough votes will be cast to keep the games legal here. If legalized, both measures approved by the Senate also create rules for what is currently an unregulated industry in Maryland.

Lawmakers will tell you they are looking out for the interest of consumers' money in the jungle that is daily fantasy sports. There's some truth to that, especially after it was revealed last fall that employees of daily fantasy sports giant DraftKings won more than $6 million playing on rival site FanDuel, allegedly using "insider knowledge."

Certainly, the industry could use some rules to make sure games are on the up-and-up.

But you're kidding yourself if you don't think at least part of the sudden interest in daily fantasy sports by lawmakers nationwide is to make sure state governments are able to wet their beaks on this multibillion-dollar industry that they aren't currently getting a cut of. For example, both pieces of legislation approved by the Senate call for daily fantasy companies to apply for a license from the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission, which would create a yet-to-be-determined application fee for the license.

Perhaps more importantly, though, these online contests presumably take away from legalized gambling revenue in the state.

Maryland officials clearly have little problems with gambling, as evidenced by the lottery and continued expansion of casino gambling since slots were first approved all the way back in 2008. In fiscal year 2015, which ended June 30, Maryland's gaming and lottery revenue topped $1 billion for the first time. Expect that to keep going up, especially after the state's sixth casino, the MGM National Harbor resort, opens later this year.

Not that I'm complaining. I'm not a regular gambler, but I've played the Powerball a few times already this year, and I've been known to spend an evening or two a year at the Horseshoe in Baltimore or Maryland Live! in Anne Arundel County. (Although I'm honestly more drawn to the atmosphere, musical entertainment and restaurant offerings of both places — the gambling is just something else to do. Now, if both places would just offer free drinks while I was playing slots like they do in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Las Vegas … but I digress.)

My point is that legislators would be all too happy to embrace daily fantasy sports if it were padding the state coffers the way the lottery, slots and table games do. (And is there any doubt sports books will be proposed for Maryland casinos once annual revenue levels off in a few years?) However, lawmakers made their own bed when they passed a 2012 law, based on federal legislation, that exempted fantasy sports competitions from other types of gambling, because fantasy games reflect "the relative skill of the participants" rather than being games of chance. (To digress again for a second, I'd argue many table games like poker and Blackjack should fall under this "relative skill" provision as well.)

Lawmakers will tell you that legislation from four years ago was intended to allow what is typically referred to as "season-long" fantasy sports, but there's little difference between those and daily games when it comes to skill versus chance. Rather, the difference is the amount of money involved. States want their piece of the pie.

Wayne Carter is the editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at