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Don't kill fantasy sports in Maryland

In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that made it clear that participating in paid, online fantasy sports was not gambling. We believe that was the correct decision. Study after study has demonstrated that participation in fantasy sports is a game of skill that does not belong in the same category as slot machines and blackjack.

Unfortunately, there is a bill moving through the legislature this year that could shut out nearly 1 million Marylanders from the fantasy games they love to play.

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The General Assembly is right to consider new regulations to protect players, but we need to be thoughtful and deliberate in our regulation. Shutting down a thriving new industry is not the answer and a better plan must prevail.

As with any relatively new technology, questions should be asked and reasonable steps taken to ensure the millions involved are being treated fairly. We believe in guaranteeing that fantasy sports gaming is transparent, open and expressly legal. With more than 900,000 players in our state, Maryland should join other states like Virginia, Massachusetts and Indiana to ensure that players are protected and the games are fair. More than two dozen states are currently working on legislation that provides common sense regulation and consumer protection.

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Neighboring Virginia recently passed a bipartisan bill which has been signed by its governor. Virginians can continue to play fantasy sports while installing important parameters for fantasy sports companies. The new regulations include age verification, protecting confidential information, and requiring players, coaches and team personnel from participating, and submitting to an independent audit verifying compliance with the new requirements.

Lawmakers should not, however, lump online fantasy sports together with slot machines, roulette and other forms of casino gambling. They are not the same, and it would be a mistake to pass legislation that could end up banning fantasy sports in Maryland and crippling a nascent industry.

Instead, let's bring together stakeholders from the industry, both houses of the legislature and the proper regulatory bodies to examine this issue and prepare a path forward. Maryland has led on online fantasy sports in the past and it should lead again — by bringing people together to form public policy that works for everyone.

Dels. Ben Barnes and Jason Buckle, Annapolis

Mr. Barnes, a Democrat, represents Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. Mr. Buckle is a Republican representing Allegany County.

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