A bill to allow and regulate online daily fantasy sports betting has been introduced in the General Assembly, but opponents say it will hurt other forms of gambling in Illinois.
The bill is intended to supercede a 2015 advisory opinion by Attorney General Lisa Madigan that daily fantasy sports betting was illegal under state gambling law.
The legislation’s chief sponsor, Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, says the regulations proposed are designed to protect players.
“I think daily fantasy sports continues to be operating in a regulatory vacuum,” Zalewski said. “This has been going on for two or three years now where their sites have operated free and clear of regulatory laws or tax rates.”
The bill would offer protections such as an age restriction of 21, prohibiting employees of the fantasy contest providers from playing, and would require an annual independent audit to ensure providers are complying with the requirements.
Zalewski said that by allowing and taxing daily fantasy sports betting in Illinois, the state could bring in potential revenue to help pay for schools and other services.
“There’s untapped tax revenue that would go in either schools or infrastructure or whatever the legislature deems appropriate, which we’re not taking advantage of right now,” he said. “We’re in a state that’s $14 billion behind in paying its bills.”
The Illinois Gaming Board, which would have supervising authority over all daily fantasy sports participation, argues that the rules would be incredibly difficult to enforce since fantasy sports take place in a contestant’s home.
“In a casino, we monitor everything. We have surveillance and a central computer system. This would be an outside computer system, probably located outside of Illinois,” said Caleb Melamed, Illinois Gaming Board legislative liaison.
Zalewski, however, said other states have passed similar legislation, and if they can manage the oversight, so could Illinois.
“I disagree with the gaming board on the difficulty of regulating this only because other states are doing it, and I just believe the Illinois Gaming Board is able to do the things that other states are able to figure out,” Zalewski said.
Additionally, Melamed said allowing daily fantasy sports betting in Illinois could have a negative impact on gambling establishments like casinos or video-gaming parlors.
“This is going to have a tremendous impact on gaming,” he said. “This is another step to making gaming more pervasive by putting it inside people’s households.”
Peter Schoenke, president of RotoWire, a Wisconsin-based company that provides information and statistics to fantasy sports participants, said online daily fantasy sports betting wouldn’t take any business from casinos.
“Fantasy sports are not a competitor to traditional casino games. They’re just very different,” Schoenke said. “Fantasy sports you play on your computer at home, you’re watching the game on Sundays. You’re not going to a brick-and-mortar building and playing. It’s just a totally different product.”
Zalewski said he anticipates his bill to be scheduled for a House committee hearing once the General Assembly returns from its Easter break at the end of the month.
FanDuel and Draft Kings spokesman Marc La Vorgna said both fantasy sports companies support the legislation.
Online fantasy sports are contests in which participants select a team of real-world athletes and gather points based on how their players perform in an actual game. In 2016, Colorado, Kansas, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, Virginia all passed fantasy sports legislation.
— Contact Brian Robbins: 782-3095, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/brianrobbins9.