Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Maddigan stated that the daily fantasy games offered by FanDuel and DraftKings constitute illegal gambling in a document released on Wednesday night.
“[I]t is my opinion that the contests in question constitute illegal gambling under subsection 28-1(a) of the Criminal Code of 2012 … and the exemption set forth in subsection 28-1(b)(2) of the Criminal Code … does not apply,” Maddigan wrote in a letter to state representatives Elgie R. Sims Jr. and Scott R. Drury.
Sims and Drury are chairperson and vice-chairperson, respectively, of the state’s Criminal Committee and had previously inquired to Maddigan as to the legality of daily fantasy sports contests in the state.
The relevant section of the state’s criminal code, as highlighted in the letter, states:
(a) A person commits gambling when he or she:
(1) knowingly plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value, unless excepted in subsection (b) of this Section;
[ … ]
(12) knowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an Internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value by means of the Internet or to make a wager upon the result of any game, contest, political nomination, appointment, or election by means of the Internet. This item (12) does not apply to activities referenced in items (6) and (6.1) of subsection (b) of this Section.
Maddigan noted the theoretically relevant exception of subsection 28-1(a), which allows “Offers of prizes, award or compensation to the actual contestants in any bona fide contest for the determination of skill, speed, strength or endurance,” but determined that “in the context of daily fantasy sports, the ‘actual contestant’ … is the athlete.”
The letter goes on to state that “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.”
In short, Maddigan does not believe the exemption applies.
The Attorney General did note in her conclusion pending legislation called the Fantasy Contests Act that seeks to exempt fantasy contests as it defines them. Maddigan used the legislation’s existence and sponsorship to suggest that General Assembly members had also concluded that the contests were currently illegal.
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