In an unusual break among state officials, the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is opposing Attorney General Maura Healey's plan to ban people between the ages of 18 and 21 from playing daily fantasy sports.
Stephen Crosby's comments were in response to a proposed raft of regulations that Healey is preparing to impose on fantasy sports companies. The deadline for submitting comments was last Friday and his submission was recently posted online on Healey's website, along with those of other interested parties.
Crosby said he was making suggestions "solely as an individual" and not on behalf of the commission, although the letter was on Gaming Commission letterhead. He specifically took issue with the age ban proposed by Healey, along with suggestions for more technical changes.
Crosby noted that while Massachusetts law bans players under 21 from casinos, that largely is because alcohol is served in casinos. That same age limit simply doesn't make sense in the online-only realm of daily fantasy, he wrote, since 18-year-olds are otherwise considered adults.
"I have a hard time understanding the logic of considering people old enough to join the military, to vote, to get married and to live alone and yet consider them insufficiently responsible to play daily fantasy sports," Crosby wrote.
The Gaming Commission has separately studied the daily fantasy sports industry. Like Healey, it concluded that Massachusetts laws don't explicitly make winning cash prizes in those games illegal. The commission has suggested state lawmakers consider additional regulations for the industry.
In a statement, a spokeswoman said Healey expects to implement the under-21 age restriction.
"The focus of our draft regulations has always been about protecting consumers, and in particular on ensuring that young people are not accessing these sites," the spokeswoman said.
Yahoo Inc., which also operates fantasy sports properties, also took issue with the under-21 ban. Limiting games to players who are 21 presents difficult new verification problems for companies, wrote Yahoo, which began offering daily fantasy contests last year.
Yahoo said it restricts paid daily fantasy contests to players 18 and older. Verifying the ages of those players is relatively easy, Yahoo wrote, because it is done when the players submit their payment information.
Changing the age limit to 21 and requiring age verification of players in free games "could create additional security risks for our users," Yahoo said, because it requires the company to collect more personal data about its players.
"As such, we look forward to discussing with your office ways to address concerns regarding access to games by underage players," Yahoo wrote.
The industry's top daily fantasy sports operators, Boston-based DraftKings Inc. and New York-based FanDuel Inc., also oppose a 21-year-old age limit.
Eighteen-year-olds, Draft-Kings wrote in submitted comments, "have jobs, pay taxes, marry, and raise children," and should be trusted to win money in fantasy sports contests. FanDuel noted that 18-year-olds are allowed to purchase lottery tickets.
The companies also are suggesting changes to several other more technical parts of Healey's proposal, such as a $1,000 monthly limit on player deposits and the rules for deciding if a player is a beginner or labeled as "highly experienced."
Other commentators, however, support the age limit.
"It is well established that rates of problem gambling peak between age 18 and 21 and that those who develop gambling problems at a younger age are more likely to be problem gamblers as adults," wrote Lia Nower, director of the Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies.
Healey's proposed rules would make Massachusetts the first state to set up a detailed regulatory regime allowing daily fantasy sports contests. The regulations are expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.