Role of regulators questioned

Nevada gambling regulators on Oct. 15 ruled that fantasy sports will be treated as gambling, not a game of skill. It directed websites such as DraftKings and FanDuels to end operations within the state.

It's not clear whether other states will follow Nevada's lead. And some observers seemed to say the Nevada regulators were acting to protect the Nevada casino industry from competition.

The New York Times, for instance, quoted sportswriter Chris Grove, who said, “It's self-serving, but that is what the agency is designed to do—ensure an environment where the state's licensed operators have the best chance of success, and part of that mission is to address forms of alternative gambling that fall outside the umbrella of regulation.”

In fact, there is nothing in state statutes that empowers state regulators to take action to insure the success of any business, though that impression is often created.

“I would reject the argument that this is a protective measure,” said former Nevada governor Richard Bryan, who appointed a number of state regulators during his six years as governor.

“It is the function of regulators to regulate the industry, to provide public protection, and insure the integrity of the games,” he said. “I can't imagine that the role of the gaming commission is to protect from competition. I find that astonishing.”

If the notion that Nevada gambling regulators are protecting the business fortunes of existing businesses spread, it could severely undercut confidence in the regulatory apparatus. But critics say that often the coziness between regulators and those they regulate can create that impression. Nevertheless, Bryan said the bulk of state regulations history speaks otherwise.

“I reject that,” he said. “I think it's wholly inaccurate. The whole history of Nevada gaming regulation says otherwise.”