On Wednesday, the Stop Predatory Gambling (SPG) advocacy group announced the filing of a constitutional challenge of the DFS legislation New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law in August. The challenge was filed by law firm O’Connell and Aronowitz on behalf of four female state residents who claim to have been directly affected by problem gambling issues.
The lawsuit alleges that DFS isn’t allowed under New York’s constitution, and amending New York’s constitution requires favorable votes by two “separately-elected” legislatures, followed by a statewide referendum. This process was followed when New York authorized new commercial casino operations in 2013 but the DFS bill was approved by a single legislature.
The SPG lawsuit also takes issue with the legislation labeling DFS a game of skill rather than an illegal game of chance prohibited by the state constitution. The constitution contains specific exemptions for those new casinos, the state lottery, pari-mutuel wagering and various charitable gaming endeavors, but not for DFS.
The plaintiffs also claim that DFS violates the federal PASPA sports betting prohibition, a belief that has been referenced in other states. Earlier this year, Massachusetts legislators were urged to leave DFS out of their proposed omnibus online gambling legislation in order to ward off any potential PASPA conflicts.
The plaintiffs are seeking an immediate and permanent halt to DFS activity in New York. In August, the state Gaming Commission issued permits to multiple DFS operators ahead of the start of the current NFL season.
O’Connell and Aronowitz attorney Neil Murray said the plaintiffs wanted to “protect the public from predatory gambling consistent with the Constitution” while also preventing DFS operators like DraftKings and FanDuel from “exploiting the financially desperate and the addicted in New York.”
SPG and its frontman Les Bernal have been front and center at virtually every state or federal hearing into online gambling, offering alarmist rhetoric and dubious statistics to keep the online gambling genie firmly in its bottle. On Wednesday, Bernal said DFS was “a huge rip-off for all citizens, regardless whether you gamble or not.”