Zalewski Calls for Online Gambling and Fantasy Sports Bill

Illinois Online Gambling - Illinois Daily Fantasy Sports

Adding online gambling to the DFS bill might gain the support of the land-based casino industry.

State Rep. Michael Zalewski believes a dual online gambling and daily fantasy sports bill is what he needs to pass a version of House Bill 0479 in Illinois. Zalewski introduced the fantasy-only version of HB0479 earlier this year, but it stalled.

After the earlier failure, the 61-year old Democrat from Chicago believes he will need the support of land-based gambling interests to legalize daily fantasy sports.

Nothing is assured if Zalewski wrote a combined gaming bill, but licensed Illinois casinos could launch online gambling sites if such a bill passed, so they presumably would support such a bill.

Online Gambling and Daily Fantasy Sports Bill

Zalewski said in an interview with Gambling Compliance, “I’ve come to the conclusion this needs to be a collaborative approach. I tried for two years to pass a fantasy bill without online gaming. I’m sort of at my wit’s end with that approach, so I think we need to circle the wagons and try a new approach.”

The representative introduced his bill after Attorney General Lisa Madigan ruled that daily fantasy sports is illegal in Illinois. Since then, DFS has existed in a legal gray area. Madigan suggested the legislature amend existing gaming law to legalize DFS if they disagreed, but the legislative process is complicated in Illinois at the moment.

Rauner-Madigan Legislative Standoff

Complicated might be a kind word. Governor Bruce Rauner (R) and House Speaker Mike Madigan (D) are in a years-old standoff over a $15 billion budget deficit. The two sides are in their third year without a state budget and many are concerned the state’s credit rating is going to be lowered. Every bill introduced faces the legislative dysfunction caused by the ongoing controversy.

In Representative Zalewski’s case, the land-based casino and racino industry opposes the legalization of daily fantasy sports. They do not want a new form of competition from DFS. Those who oppose such a bill can turn to the argument that daily fantasy sports is a game of chance (and not skill). In that line of logic, DFS should be illegal.

DFS Revenues without Raised Taxes

Daily fantasy sports offers a chance to generate revenues without raising taxes, so Zalewski believes a groundswell of support exists. The key is to build a coalition of support, uniting the shareholders and the lawmakers. If online gambling was added to HB0479, then Illinois casinos and racinos would get a revenue boost from supporting the bill.

A bill already exists which tried to combine the two Internet gaming activities. State Sen. Kwame Raoul, State Sen. Dave Syverson, and State Rep. Robert Rita supported Senate Bill 1531, which proposed to make online poker and DFS legal. The bill passed in the Senate, but failed to gain enough support in the Illinois House.

Kwame Raoul’s Gaming Bill

At the time, Sen. Kwame Raoul told the Chicago Tribune, “There was controversy last year as to why are we regulating daily fantasy sports activity, which is ongoing in the state, and not regulating internet gaming, which is also occurring. So what this bill attempts to do is also regulate and bring licensure and supervision of Internet gaming under the jurisdiction of the Gaming Board.”

Sen. Raoul said that the bill specifically called for licensing of online gambling activities to be limited to land casinos. Daily fantasy sports operators like FanDuel and DraftKings would be allowed to gain DFS licenses. It is unknown if non-traditional daily fantasy sports operators like FastPick and Boom Fantasy, which offer parlay-style contests, would be allowed to operate in Illinois.