Internet betting could soon be legal in Illinois, if the House approves SB208
The final vote on Senate Bill 208 allowing Illinoisans to take part in fantasy sports betting would have a large impact on the gaming industry, chairman for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) said recently.
“I don’t think anybody loves this bill, but it is something every company can get on board with,” Peter Schoenke, chairman for FSTA and president of Roto Sports, Inc. told the Sangamon Sun. “We believe fantasy sports aren’t gambling.”
Sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), the Senate passed the bill during the last day of the spring session. Since the session has been extended into the summer, it could still come up for House consideration. The bill would regulate fantasy sports betting, barring anyone under age 21 from participating and mandating that providers undergo an annual independent audit to show they're complying with the law.
The bill would replace a 2015 advisory opinion by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, which stated that fantasy sports betting violates Illinois gambling law.
“The AG was asked about fantasy sports and she said that it doesn’t quite fit in the current law, which created uncertainty,” Schoenke said. “There is some opposition that incorrectly views fantasy sports as gambling.”
In her statement, Madigan said if a person is willingly involved in a site that plays for money, like DraftKings and FanDuel, he or she is suspected to be gambling.
The current law doesn’t affect those who play free Internet sports games; however, it does affect those who play more competitive games, Schoenke said. "A lot of companies may not operate in the state as a result of the ruling. There are few companies that have pulled out, but most still operate in Illinois."
If the House passes the internet sports betting bill, Illinois could receive 10 percent of the revenue, the State Journal-Register reported. That revenue would go toward support programs for compulsive gamblers, with some left over for the state. Of that, it could be split into numerous programs or go toward education.
It also would require additional added taxes for fantasy sports companies, Schoenke added
Illinois is estimated to contribute 5 percent of total daily fantasy sports activity, Calvin Ayre reported in 2015 following Madigan's advisory opinion. Losing that business would have a "painful" impact on operators.
Schoenke said those who oppose the bill have moral or competitive reasons. He said the industry, which has been around for 20 years, has triggered heated debate recently.
Since 2015, discussion has been ongoing in the Illinois General Assembly. Meanwhile, 11 other states passed laws legalizing daily fantasy sports betting.