Illinois AG KO's fantasy contests

Illinois AG KO's fantasy contests

December 25, 2015 9:00 AM
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DraftKings headed to court Thursday following an opinion by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that daily fantasy sports betting is illegal in her state.

DraftKings attorney Randy Mastro said, “In the wake of [her] advisory opinion we filed suit today to ask a court to declare daily fantasy sports legal under Illinois law and to do so on an expedited basis so that the hundreds of thousands of Illinois fans who have played DFS openly and honestly for nearly a decade will know they can continue to enjoy the fantasy sports games they love.”

Madigan’s opinion, sought by two Democratic legislators, points out that the debate over whether the popular contests involve skill or luck is irrelevant. Illinois outlaws both.

The law “clearly declares that all games of chance or skill, when played for money, are illegal gambling in Illinois,” Madigan, a Democrat, wrote.

Democratic Rep. Mike Zalewski of Riverside, who is pushing legislation to legalize and regulate the contests, said that while he disagrees that the pastime involves gambling, the ruling provides “more clarity.”

Zalewski said in a statement that he’s aiming for regulations “to allow Illinoisans to continue to play these contests and provide the necessary strong consumer protections for safe, fun play.”

Madigan pointed out that while state law allows prizes or compensation for “actual contestants,” that doesn’t include fantasy gamblers.

“Persons whose wagers depend upon how particular, selected athletes perform in actual sporting events stand in no different stead than persons who wager on the outcome of any sporting event in which they are not participants,” Madigan wrote.

Nevada regulators declared the bets illegal gambling and ordered the sites out of the state unless they acquire gambling licenses. New York’s attorney general ordered DraftKings and FanDuel to stop operating, but the companies won a temporary reprieve allowing them to continue through January.

Democratic Reps. Scott Drury of Highwood and Elgie Sims of Chicago sought the opinion. Drury said not only did taxpayers need to know whether the contests were legal, lawmakers needed to know what they are attempting to regulate.

Drury said. “Now that we know, according to the attorney general, that it’s illegal, we can make a serious attempt to address the issue.”

Drury is not a fan of Zalewski’s proposal, saying the minimum age of 18 is too young and that rules are too loose on winners who owe child support or tax money. Zalewski said he aligned parameters with current gambling regulations on riverboat casinos and horse racing.

“I disagree with those sentiments, but we have whole spring ahead of us to work on a bill that addresses concerns like that,” Zalewski said.

Other states appear to be developing regulations that would allow the daily fantasy competition to continue and in Nevada, veteran bookmaker Vic Salerno has filed for a gaming license to offer daily fantasy contests using a pari-mutuel platform.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: PhilHevener@GamingToday.com.

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