Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro is demanding that the heads of two major fantasy sports sites stop taking bets from Honolulu residents.
The move comes less than a week after Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said online fantasy sports contests are gambling, which is illegal in the state. Hawaii and Utah are the only two states in the country that don’t allow some form of legalized gambling.
"The technology may have changed, but the vice has not," Chin said.
In a letter dated Monday, Kaneshiro told the heads of the websites DraftKings and FanDuel to "immediately cease and desist" from accepting bets from Honolulu residents.
Accepting and profiting from bets is considered promoting gambling, Kaneshiro said. That’s a class C felony, which can be punishable with up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
On fantasy sports sites, a player picks out a fantasy team and earns points on how well the athletes perform. The websites can offer a much larger payout than games with friends, and they can involve hundreds of players and wagers up to $1,000.
However, if the outcome of the contest depends on any element of chance, it’s considered gambling under Hawaii law, Kaneshiro said.
David Boies, an attorney for DraftKings, said the company will stop accepting Honolulu residents’ bets. However, he said he disagrees with the Hawaii Attorney General’s opinion on the basis that daily fantasy sports are games of skill.
"We are hopeful our constructive engagement with Hawaii legislators will promptly address the issue so that our loyal fans can continue to enjoy the games they love without anyone questioning the legality of their conduct," Boies said. "In the meantime, we will voluntarily pause operations in the state but hope to resume soon."
FanDuel would not comment on the matter.
There have been several bills introduced this session that would seek to legalize and regulate the fantasy sports sites. The bills would require fantasy sports contest operators who offer cash prizes to register with the state, and the sites would be off-limits to minors.
Nationwide, nearly 60 million Americans play fantasy sports. Several states, including California and Pennsylvania, are working to regulate the industries, while others, including New York, have banned the sites altogether.
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