Monday, March 28, 2016

UPDATE: Tennessee Legislation Could End Fantasy Sports in "The Nanny State"

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article (click here to read) making my readers aware of legislation pending in the Tennessee Legislature, which would result in significant, unneeded, and unnecessary regulations being placed upon the fantasy sports industry in our state. Since I ran that article, the legislation has drastically changed, for the worse, and it's been blowing through the legislature's committee system like Le'Veon Bell through the Tennessee Titans' defense. (Ouch!)

Tennessee State Seal
Tennessee State Seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The house version of the bill has added 2 new Republican sponsors, Rep. Kent Calfee and Rep. Art Swann. So, the bill now has a total of 5 sponsors and 4 of them are Republicans. For years, the GOP was the party of small government and little regulation, but not anymore. This is more evidence that the GOP as a whole is now "Democrat-lite".

Now, regarding how the bill has changed - the original bill has now been completely rewritten via 20 pages of amendments. I encourage all to go read not only the text of the bill but all 20 pages of amendments, too, by clicking here. Then, click on the "Amendments" tab. The restrictions and regulations this bill will put in place are immense. For instance, one section of the bill could ban autodrafts.

What's an autodraft? Well, each year prior to my fantasy football drafts, I go into my account, whether it be with or somewhere else, and set my autodraft settings in case something came up at the last minute, and I can not be at my computer at draft time to select my team. I can set which position (QB, RB, WR, TE, DEF) I want to draft in each round. It's kinda like the "out of office" function on your e-mail. Because of this and other restrictions, I could see fantasy sports businesses saying, "The heck with it", and not offering their products, whether free or fee-based, to Tennesseans anymore. They may not want to fool with the new, asinine, nanny-state guidelines that this bill will put in place. This bill could in essence turn into a fantasy sports ban in Tennessee.

I think the state has 2 motives for this legislation. First, they think fantasy sports is "gambling", which is incorrect in the purest sense of the term. "Gambling" relies almost solely on luck. Fantasy sports do not. With fantasy sports, the player has to do some homework, as I previously mentioned, to determine which athletes, whether they be in football or some other sport, should be inserted into their lineup to give them the best chance of winning. "Gambling" is relying on nothing but the toss of a dice, or on being dealt a certain card, or on a certain number or group of numbers being drawn. Your potential for success is almost completely out of your hands as a player. Not so in fantasy sports. If you don't do your homework, you will lose.

Tennessee Lottery
Tennessee Lottery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now, one thing that IS "gambling" is the Tennessee Lottery. No homework and no skill whatsoever go into playing the lottery. You go pick your numbers, or have the computer pick them for you, pay the ticket price, and wait to see if your numbers get drawn. However, the state's cool with that, because it funds education, and "It's for the children." Sound familiar? That's one of the left's top arguments for anything and everything. You can't get anymore hypocritical than the state of Tennessee has when it's perfectly fine with having a state lottery but it wants to regulate fantasy football out of existence.

However, if the state can get it's hooks into fantasy sports, regulate them, and get a piece of the pie, then I guess they won't considerate it "gambling" anymore. Everything will be all hunkydory, because the state will have blessed it.

Second, I think the legislature worries that if fee based fantasy sports, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, go unregulated in Tennessee, the games will begin to compete with the lottery for players and ultimately siphon money away from the "state sponsored gambling industry". Big government hates competition, and when it comes to money the state is much like the mob - don't mess with its cash inflows or you'll get a visit from Uncle Billy and a little bada-bing-bada-boom. Capische?

As I said in my previous post about this legislation, fantasy sports is unimportant in the overall grand scheme of things, so please don't take the 2 posts I've written as, "The Sheepdog's just pissed because they're screwing with fantasy football." If you think that, then you're completely missing my overall point here, which is that we as a state have other more pressing needs right now. However, it's become quite obvious that the Tennessee legislature doesn't care about any of that.

The legislature has held multiple committee meetings and wasted hours and hours of their time on writing amendments, discussing, debating, and voting on regulating fantasy football (and other fantasy sports) while ignoring the much more pressing needs of Tennesseans. These include the fact that many of the state's citizens can't find work, don't have good health care, are addicted to alcohol and illegal drugs, live in crime infested neighborhoods, and have to drive on deteriorating bridges and roads that are so rough it's like driving on the moon. I could go on and on. So, WHY IS THE DADGUM TENNESSEE LEGISLATURE SPENDING ITS TIME WORRYING ABOUT HOW TO REGULATE AND MAKE MONEY OFF OF FANTASY FOOTBALL?!?! I'm past being fed up with the state's leadership.

This is one of the most ridiculous bills the legislature has ever considered. In my opinion, any member of the Tennessee legislature who has sponsored, voted for, or allowed the legislature's time to be wasted on this pathetic piece of legislation instead of more pressing issues should be voted out of office. By the way, did I mention this is an election year? Well, it is. So, when you go vote, remember that Billy Haslam and his GOP Big Government friends have turned "The Volunteer State" into "The Nanny State", and they all need to be replaced.

P.S. If you're a Tennessee resident, and feel like I do about this issue, then please take a moment to contact your elected state representative and voice your opinion. This legislation passed the full Tennessee State Senate earlier this afternoon, and it's likely to be up for a vote on the floor of the Tennessee House very soon. If you do not know who represents you, then click here to find out. Then, on the right side of the page you're directed to, enter in your address under "Find My Legislator", and then click the "Search" button.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

ALERT : Bureacrats in Washington Putting Transplant Recipients in Danger

Earlier today, I ran across an alert about a proposed change in Medicare's prescription drug coverage that has the potential to affect thousands of Americans and put their very lives at risk. I want to thank my fellow heart transplant recipient and blogging colleague My2ndHeartbeat for bringing it to my attention.

Heartbeat's article titled "Anti-Rejection Medication Issue" shares a member alert from Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO). It details a proposal by CMS-Medicare that if approved would remove immunosuppressants, anti-seizure medications, cancer drugs, and others from the list of "Six Protected Classes" of medications.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Me...
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Medicaid administrator) logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you are a transplant recipient, you MUST have immunosuppressants to live. Otherwise, your body will reject your new organ and you WILL DIE. These medications are also very expensive. Therefore, if you are a transplant recipient on Medicare, and these medications are not required to be covered under Part D anymore, then your plan will likely NOT cover them. If they are not covered, then it is also likely that you will not be able to afford them.  Furthermore, if Medicare doesn't require them to be covered, then it is possible that private insurers might stop covering them, too. So, the potential harmful effects of this change is NOT limited to Medicare beneficiaries.

Therefore, we MUST all take action, because the proposal will affect more than just transplant recipients. For example, if you are a cancer patient, you could be affected, too. If you or a loved one on Medicare take anti-depressants, you could also be affected. So, please click here to read the entire alert from TRIO, and follow the prompts within in to contact the bureaucrats in charge of making the decision on this dangerous, life-threatening proposal. I contacted them earlier today.

Please also help me and my friend, Heartbeat, spread the word. Post our posts to your Facebook page and to your blog, if you have one. If this proposal becomes reality, it WILL result in the deaths of transplant recipients and others.

The proposal is wolf-like at best, so it appears that after a long layoff, The Sheepdog picked a good time to get back to work. These wolves, and all others, must be stopped. Lives are at stake.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Tenessee Legislature Living in "Fantasyland" and Out of Touch with Reality

I'm baaaack!!

The Sheepdog has been off his post since September. There has been a lot, and I mean a lot, going on. I've been busy with family, a little deer hunting, and trying to win fantasy football championships. Plus, I'd gotten so burned out with all the political crap on TV and the net, I just wasn't motivated to do any blogging. I was even contemplating "blogging retirement", but the Tennessee Legislature has gone nutso again, so I'm back.

Photograph of the Tennessee State Capitol on a...
Photograph of the Tennessee State Capitol on a sunny day, the central cupola soaring against a clear sky. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Speaking of fantasy football, if you're a player in the state of Tennessee, guess what? The legislature is wanting to start regulating fantasy football and all other fantasy sports. I had not heard about it until I received an e-mail from DraftKings two days ago which said:
We need your help!

We've been working hard to protect your right to play fantasy sports in Tennessee. Now we are asking that you pitch in to ensure you can continue to play the games you love!

Please click here to email your elected officials using our simple tool, and ask them to support SB 2109 and HB 2105, so that together we can keep fantasy sports legal and accessible throughout Tennessee. These bills ensure common sense consumer protections so fans like you are protected.

Thanks, as always, for continuing to support us while we work to protect your rights. With your help, we know we can make #fantasyforall a reality.

DraftKings supports a bill which will allow the state to begin regulating their industry? Does that make any sense to you? It doesn't to me, because regulation ALWAYS brings with it government intrusion and drives up cost of operations.

What will HB 2105 / SB 2109 actually do? If passed into law the legislation will be known as the Fantasy Sports Act of 2016, establish the Tennessee Fantasy Sports Commission, and require fantasy sports companies to register with the state and pay an application fee, licensure fee, and renewal fee, a.k.a. taxes. It would also "require fantasy sports contest operators to report annually all winnings earned by fantasy sports players on online platforms supported by the fantasy sports contest operator to the Commission."

WTH? Why does the state of Tennessee need to know which Tennesseans have won fantasy sports contests and how much they've won? Since Tennessee does not have a state income tax, because one is prohibited by the state constitution, why does the state need to know that? Could it be that it hopes to one day find a loophole so that the winnings can be taxed? Maybe "Big Brother" just wants to watch something else.

I find DraftKings support of the bill rather curious. Go read their e-mail above again. Pay careful attention to how it's worded. Do you see what I see? I don't think DraftKings actually supports the bill. I think the state has strong armed them into "supporting" it by making it known to them that if they don't agree to being regulated, then they will be banned from doing business in Tennessee. Remember when the news reports came out that the state of New York wanted an injunction prohibiting FanDuel and DraftKings from operating there? Same kinda thing.

The bill's sponsors are Rep. Pat Marsh (R), Rep. Darren Jernigan (D), and Sen. Jack Johnson (R). If you're a Tennessean who plays and enjoys fantasy football and other fantasy sports, I encourage you to call or e-mail the three sponsors above and voice your displeasure with the bill. You can find their contact info by clicking on their names above. Yesterday, I sent the three of them the e-mail below. Please note my reasons within it for my opposition to this bill.
Rep. Marsh, Rep. Jernigan, and Sen. Johnson :

Yesterday, in an e-mail from DraftKings, I learned of the Fantasy Sports Act of 2016 for the first time. I suspect that scores of other Tennesseans had the same experience, and had the same reaction that I did, which was something along the lines of “What the …?”

Many of us enjoy fantasy sports. It adds to the experience of being a sports fan. I have only played fantasy football. Mainly because football is the only sport I follow closely. I’ve played free fantasy football leagues and ones with a fee. I plan on playing fantasy football again this coming year. However, the new, proposed legislation has me wondering what affects it will have on the “game”.

In the e-mail I received, DraftKings says it supports the legislation, but the question is why is it even needed? Do it’s participants, such as I, need protecting? The answer is no, but some claim otherwise by pointing to the incident where an employee of one fantasy sports company won a large sum of money on a competitor’s website. Some argued that the person capitalized on so-called “insider information”. The problem with such an opinion is that doing your homework and luck are what determines whether a participant has success in fantasy sports. All the “insider information” in the world will not help you if other things don’t go your way. Allow me to explain below.

There are no guarantees in fantasy sports. For instance, on my fantasy football team’s roster I could have Peyton Manning as my quarterback and Adrian Peterson as one of my running backs. Let’s say that one week during the NFL season, Manning’s Broncos’ offense is up against the worse pass defense in the NFL and Peterson’s Vikings and their offense is up against the worse run defense. One would think that each should have a good game and anyone who has them on their fantasy football team roster that week should score a lot of points. However, one thing that is certain about fantasy football and football in general – there are no guarantees.

Consider this - what if it’s snowing in Denver, Manning does not throw the ball much and only gets my fantasy football team 12 points when I’m expecting at least 25 from him? Likewise, what if the Vikings get behind in their game early, have to go to passing the ball to play catch up, and therefore Peterson only nets about 50 yards rushing netting my fantasy team only 5 points when I was expecting at least 12-15? Or, what if both those guys get hurt in the first quarter of their games and cannot return to the game? Guess what? My fantasy football team is likely to have a bad day, score few points, and me lose in either scenario. I had two great matchups for my two best players, but in each scenario, it got me zilch. That’s fantasy football. Like I said earlier, there are no guarantees. Good luck can be your friend and bad luck can be your worst enemy and ruin your day no matter how good the matchup looks, or how much “insider information” you think you have. I know – it’s happened to me many times. It’s part of it.
So, in the aforementioned “insider information” situation which was in the news, luck, yes luck, had more to do with that than “insider information”. Fantasy sports do involve skill, because a player has to do their homework by reading scouting reports, keeping up with free agency, following the real draft, monitoring injury reports, studying the stats to look for trends, etc. Doing these things helps a participant put the best team together possible. However, once your lineup is set, there is nothing the participant can do to help the outcome. I can’t make my quarterback throw for 400 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions each week. He either does it or does not. He may get me 30 points, or like in the scenario above with Manning, he may get me 12. There’s absolutely nothing I can do once the weekly games start and my roster locks. So, if the reasoning behind this bill’s proposal was that Tennesseans need to be protected from “insider information” when playing fantasy sports, then the bill has been proposed based upon flawed reasoning and a lack of understanding of how fantasy sports work.
One of the year-long fantasy football leagues I was in this year saw a buddy get bit by a ton of bad luck early. Our draft was held before pre-season was over with. His 1st round pick was Jordy Nelson (WR – GB) and his 2nd round pick was Andrew Luck (QB – Indy). Unfortunately for him, Nelson blew out his knee, was lost for the year, and never played a down during the regular season. Luck played poorly early on, then got injured, and was subsequently lost for the year, too. My buddy’s season went up in flames because of those two injuries. So, where am I going with all this? It’s very simple. With this bill, you gentlemen are trying to regulate “luck” and the homework a fantasy sports participant must do in order to be successful. It’s absurd at best, and a good argument can be made that it’s another big government overreach which creates another big government program and amounts to another piece of nanny state legislation. I can’t help but wonder if this bill is just another way to generate more revenue through the charging of fees, a.k.a. taxes, to the fantasy sports companies which they will in turn pass down to consumers, like me, in the form of higher fees to play the games. This bill could lead to free fantasy sports leagues going away completeIy since the fantasy sports companies will now have to pay an additional “tax”. Is that what you gentleman want?

I see no positives coming from this legislation, but only the negatives of another government bureaucracy and higher fees for consumers. Therefore, for all the aforementioned reasons, I’m asking the bill be taken off notice. It is a bad bill.

Tennessee has many other problems the legislature needs to be working on. There are infrastructure problems, including roads that need to be paved. Many Tennesseans do not have adequate healthcare. Many Tennesseans are out of jobs because overregulation, like this bill, has kept good companies from coming to Tennessee and providing jobs. Our education system also needs work, primarily because too much government intrusion has made life hard for teachers. I could go on and on.

However, instead of working on the aforementioned problems, you guys want to spend time on regulating “fantasy sports”. Seriously? The key word here is “fantasy”. It’s basically, as my buddy says, “a make believe game”. So please, stop wasting time on a “fantasy” and get back to dealing with REAL problems that affect Tennesseans every day. That’s what your constituents voted you into office to do, and it’s what we taxpayers pay you for.

It’s time for the legislature to get out of “fantasy” and back to reality.

Johnny Black
I'm not expecting any responses from any of them, because the e-mail was a little, ... well, harsh. I'll admit it. It's just that I'm tired of the current legislature. Since it went under Republican control, it has been out of control. It's stuck its nose in education and made life extremely hard for teachers. Ask any teacher. They've stuck their nose into the healthcare of Tennesseans who have severe allergies by limiting the amount of medication they can buy. Allergy sufferers have been basically punished for the sins of the meth dealers. In fact, I talked to a friend this morning who is having allergy problems and cannot buy any more meds to combat the symptoms because of it. She's "over her limit". I could go on and on about how the legislature has overreached due to "nanny state-itis", but it would take all day.

And now, instead of tackling the real issues that are important to Tennesseans, such as the ones I listed in my e-mail to the bill's sponsors, the Tennessee Republican-controlled legislature wants to waste time discussing, debating, and passing a bill to regulate fantasy sports. Are you freakin' kidding me?

Now, fantasy sports regulation is not a big deal in the overall scheme of things. I know that. What really bothers me about the bill, as mentioned above, is that Tennessee has much bigger issues that need to be dealt with but yet the politicians on working on this crappy, unneeded legislation. It's now more apparent than ever that the Tennessee Legislature is living in "fantasyland" and completely out of touch with reality. It's time to speak up and say enough is enough.

If we don't, then where will it stop?