By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois lawmaker wants to continue to allow people to put their money toward online fantasy sports contests if they wish, but he says pay-to-play fantasy sports need oversight.
State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, on Tuesday announced he’s sponsoring House Bill 4323, the Fantasy Contests Act, which he said will:
Define what what is considered daily fantasy sports in Illinois and ensure that it is not gambling under the state’s criminal laws.
Bar anyone younger than 18 from playing.
Establish “best practices” for the industry, including limits on how often a person can play, letting the sites check players for child-support liens and establishing audit standards.
Zalewski said his goal isn’t to interfere with players’ enjoyment but to provide sensible regulation.
In fantasy sports, participants open a real-money account with the game operators and — for sports such as baseball and basketball — can play daily if they wish. The fantasy teams are composed of actual athletes who are “drafted” for the fantasy match.
Operators such as DraftKings or FanDuel keep a certain amount or “fee” for administering the entire enterprise.
Zalewski said the industry is booming, and Illinois needs to pay attention.
“There’s a reason we see FanDuel and DraftKings advertising so frequently during Sunday football and other major sporting events,” Zalewski said.
Policy makers need to bring the issue into the light, he said, and the state needs a “thorough debate over how to best provide this popular entertainment and protect players.”
Are the fantasy sports basically just betting?
The question is open enough, Zalewski said, that the General Assembly must take a look at it.
“They (players) will tell you they are games of skill, that it takes a tremendous amount of skill to go online, pick a lineup that you think is going to perform better than X-amount of of people in the country and perform to the point where you win that contest,” he said.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.
“We need to know that fantasy sports organizations are providing their entertainment responsibly, just as we ask of all companies doing business in Illinois,” Raoul said in a news release.
The legislation will get some pushback from gambling opponents.
“We’re opposed to the expansion of gambling in Illinois, and this would be a major expansion to legalize sports betting on the Internet,” said Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems.
John Warren Kindt, a University of Illinois professor emeritus of business and legal policy, has been a critic of gambling, and he believes fantasy sports contests are definitely gambling.
“Most online games these days aren’t about bragging rights,” he said in an Oct. 9 interview published on the Illinois News Bureau website. “They’re about winning money – in some cases, up to a million dollars.
“And when substantial sums of money are involved, that’s when it starts edging closer to illegal gambling,” Kind said. “When there’s an exchange of money based on artificial risk — whether you call it an “entry fee” or a “prize”— it’s gambling, plain and simple.”
The nature and legality of daily fantasy sports operations are being debated across the country.
Casino-friendly Nevada recently ruled daily fantasy sports a form of unlicensed gambling and ordered it shut down there. Kansas, which considers fantasy sports games to be games of skill, represents the other end of the spectrum.
The Illinois Gaming Board recently said it considers fantasy sports games to be gambling and announced it would ask Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, D-Chicago, for an opinion on whether the games are permissible under current Illinois law.