Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro sent letters to fantasy sports companies FanDuel and DraftKings telling them to stop taking money from Honolulu residents.
“Gambling is illegal in Hawaii, and on January 27, 2016, the state Attorney General issued a formal advisory opinion confirming what I have long believed: That daily fantasy sports contests are a form of gambling and violate Hawaii statutes,” Kaneshiro wrote in the letter dated Monday.
Attorney General Doug Chin issued an advisory opinion last week stating that the daily fantasy sports contests are in violation of Hawaii law. Chin’s office said it was studying its next steps.
“Gambling generally occurs under Hawaii law when a person stakes or risks something of value upon a game of chance or upon any future contingent event not under a person’s control,” Chin said in a news release last week. “The technology may have changed, but the vice has not.”
Under Hawaii law, promoting gambling can constitute a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Chin’s opinion was written in response to a request from Maui Sen. Roz Baker.
Lawmakers are considering bills, proposed by the fantasy sports industry, that would change Hawaii law to allow for daily fantasy sports contests.
The measures stipulate that daily fantasy contests are not gambling, and would implement a number of consumer protections, such as requiring operators to verify that customers are at least 18.
Randy Mastro, an attorney for DraftKings, said Chin’s interpretation of Hawaii law is incorrect.
“DFS (daily fantasy sports) is a game of skill and Hawaii law clearly permits such games of skill,” Mastro said in an emailed statement last week. “We intend to continue our constructive work with lawmakers in the state, and across the nation, to see to it that fans are able to continue to enjoy the fantasy sports contests they love.”
Daily fantasy sports contests are a multibillion-dollar industry, dominated by DraftKings and FanDuel.
Customers of the fantasy sports sites pay an entrance fee, put together rosters of fictional sports teams made up of real players and can win cash based on the players’ performance in real games.
Attorneys general in New York, Illinois and Texas have also said the contests are illegal under their state laws.
Hawaii residents playing in the daily fantasy sports contests are not the focus of potential enforcement actions, said Josh Wisch, a spokesman for the attorney general.