On Wednesday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined what is now a growing list of states and issued an opinion saying fantasy sports games played on sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel are considered illegal gambling under Illinois state law.
Madigan took the argument over – whether betting on short-term, daily fantasy sports require skill – out of the equation when she pointed out that anytime someone “plays a game of chance or skill for money” illegal gambling occurs. That being said, Illinois’ AG also pointed out that state lawmakers are currently looking at pending legislation that would exempt such games from the state’s gambling law.
In October, legislation to legalize the contests was introduced by Riverside Democratic Rep. Mike Zalewski. In a statement on Wednesday he said the opinion issued by Madigan gives the matter “clarity,” which helps as he attempts to get legislation approved that would make daily fantasy betting “safe, fun play,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The opinion issued by Madigan came at the request of State Reps. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago and Scott Drury, D-Highwood. Zalewski’s statement was echoed by Drury who on Wednesday said the ruling will help legislators draft a law to regulate the daily fantasy industry similar to that of video poker or horse racing. Drury said that while bills have been introduced that would include fantasy sports in current state gaming statues, ensuring children can’t play and winnings are taxed are not sufficiently covered in the most recent drafts, according to the Associated Press.
Traditional fantasy sports differ from daily fantasy sports because the latter are played over short periods of time, ranging from a day to a week. Prizes are based on the overall performances of real players chosen for virtual teams. In recent years daily fantasy sports have skyrocketed in popularity. The concept is far from new though, with fantasy or “rotisserie” games being around since the 1950’s when Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach Oakland Raiders limited partner and Oakland businessman, devised fantasy golf and later fantasy football. That was when the game was played over an entire season that more or less coincided with sports seasons, and when bragging rights, or possibly a trophy or a jackpot of pooled cash were the prizes.
Those days are mostly a distant memory now that sites like FanDuel and DraftKings, the top in the industry, have created a more or less effortless way for players to draft multiple fantasy teams to compete with strangers for cash, sometimes a lot of cash. The inundation of fantasy sports advertisements everywhere this year helped to shine a spotlight on the sport, which got exponentially brighter when scandal hit in October.
Industry lawyers maintain daily fantasy sports are not gambling because the outcome of the game isn’t being wagered on, nor are the matchups games of chance, because the outcomes of the contests depend on customer’s skill at choosing their team’s players. However, lawmakers in Louisiana, Arizona, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Washington, New York, and now Illinois have a different opinion.