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Minnesota senators take a time out on fantasy sports legislation

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota senators tossed legislation legalizing online fantasy sports out of bounds Thursday, perhaps keeping it on the sidelines this year."Once you pass this, you give it legal standing," Senate Tax Chairman Rod Skoe, D-Clearbrook,...

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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says on Tuesday, June 7, 2016, he is "discouraged" dealing with House Republicans as they consider a special session. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)
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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota senators tossed legislation legalizing online fantasy sports out of bounds Thursday, perhaps keeping it on the sidelines this year.

"Once you pass this, you give it legal standing," Senate Tax Chairman Rod Skoe, D-Clearbrook, said as his committee appeared to be set to defeat the bill.

Senate President Sandy Pappas, D-St. Paul, saw that her bill was in danger, given opposition from Skoe and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook.

"I think it would be better to consider it again next year," a resigned Pappas said.

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While the bill could come back into play, chances appeared slim as lawmakers make a push to finish their work before a May 23 adjournment deadline.

The full House easily passed its version of the bill last month.

The legislation was written to remove doubt about whether fantasy sports are legal in Minnesota, where the activity is popular. Some state attorneys general say the activity is illegal online gambling and have moved to shut them down.

Congress is beginning a federal study of the games. Current federal law allows skilled-based games, but there is dispute about whether fantasy sports winners emerged because of their talent.

Fantasy sports could face legal challenges because Minnesota outlaws “betting” and “sports bookmaking,” which some think would apply to fantasy sports.

A fantasy sport is an online game in which participants assemble imaginary teams of real players of a professional sport. The teams compete based on performances of the players in actual games.

Ray Bohn of Allied Charities of Minnesota told the Senate committee that his members would be hurt by allowing fantasy sports.

For one thing, Bohn said, for-profit fantasy sports pay lower taxes than what charitable gambling organizations are required to donate.

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"We are helping people in our community every day build hockey arenas, put food on the food shelves and things like that..." Bohn said. "I would hope you do not place us at a competitive disadvantage."

Bohn said that if the Pappas bill became law, it would steal players away from charities. "Instead of going to the local American Legion and play, they could sit home in their pajamas and play."

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