Daily Fantasy Sports Illegal in Illinois
In late December, the attorney general of Illinois ruled that daily fantasy sports constitute illegal gambling under Illinois law. Gambling is illegal in Illinois, with certain well-defined exceptions, and in the attorney general’s opinion, daily fantasy sports do not fall within any of those exceptions.
In fantasy sports, fans pay an entry fee to assemble virtual teams from real-life players. They can then win money or other prizes if their team does sufficiently well over the period of play. Daily fantasy contests are based on a short term of competition — a week or a day, instead of several weeks or months. The participants compete for prizes based on athletes’ performances during that shorter period.
Gambling in Illinois
Illinois’s gambling law prohibits the playing of games of chance or skill in exchange for money. This includes games involving betting on sports teams. But there is an exception to the law, permitting competing for prizes or awards for contests to demonstrate skill, speed, strength, or endurance.
Violating Illinois’s gambling law constitutes a Class A misdemeanor, and is punishable by:
- Up to one year’s imprisonment;
- Up to two years’ probation; and
- A fine of up to $2,500.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan ruled, in a published letter to the State Judiciary Committee, that daily fantasy sports contests are illegal in Illinois, under state law. The letter was addressed to FanDuel and DraftKings, two of the biggest daily fantasy sites. In the letter, Madigan stated that she expected the two companies to cease operations in Illinois.
Madigan reasoned that daily fantasy sports are gambling, and the exception for contests based on skill does not apply. Those who bet on athletes in fantasy sports, she wrote, are not any different from those who place a wager on any game they are not participating in. While fantasy sports players can use skill in choosing the people in their teams, after that point, they have no control over the outcome of the contest. The exception is designed for the players of games and actual contestants, rather than online fantasy sports players. In fantasy sports contests, it is the athletes, not those who form the fantasy teams, who actually participate in the contest of skill.
The wording of the letter means that the prohibition could also apply to other fantasy sports, and not only daily fantasy. Madigan did not directly address that question, however.
Upon receiving the letter, DraftKing announced that it was considering a lawsuit to challenge the ruling. Additionally, there is a bill pending in the state legislature, the proposed Fantasy Contests Act, to except fantasy sports from the gambling law. The bill was introduced by State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, in October.
If you have been charged with gambling, an attorney can help you prepare your best defense. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC to schedule an initial consultation.