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An Illinois representative has started a bill called the “Daily Fantasy Sports Regulation Act” — the second piece of state legislation introduced recently that could have wide-ranging implications for the DFS industry.
The text of the bill has not been written, and that will likely come in May, Zalewski told Legal Sports Report. He wants to put forth a proposal before the legislature adjourns in May so that it can be considered in the next legislative session.
“What I wanted in the initial shell is just sort of establish that I am interested in the issue and work on it,” Zalewski said in a phone interview this week. “We’re going to take some different ideas from different states and we’re going to try to collaborate and bring together a good bill for Illinois. It’s definitely a long-term project and I want to take time and do it right.”
Zalewski mentioned Texas, Iowa and Indiana, as states that have DFS bills that are similar to his state, demographically. Illinois is currently one of 45 states where most DFS sites operate, and it is not considered a “gray” state in terms of state law, at least by DFS sites.
Despite Zalewski’s use of the word “regulation” when talking about his plans, it does not sound like he has any interest in making it considerably more difficult for people to play daily fantasy sports. And it is not an attempt to help Illinois’ coffers, as the state is struggling with a budget shortfall.
“It’s hardly a revenue issue for me,” Zalewski said. “I like sports…and I like to think I fit within the demographic that these sites target, individuals who like sports and want to participate and enjoy it and are willing to do the research, so I think it’s an innovative way to keep engaged with sports.
“I also think when you have a lack of clarity on the legality … on whether these are games of skill or games of chance, we don’t want people subjecting themselves to legal exposure, we want them to have certainty one way or the other,” Zalewski continues. “Given the popularity and the proliferation of these [DFS] websites, we might as well try to regulate them.”
Zalewski also said he was “hesitant” to equate DFS to sports betting; “I think that’s a whole different conversation,” Zalewski offered.
Illinois marks the eighth state to pursue legislation that would somehow affect daily fantasy sports, just this year, and the third in the past few weeks. (Check out this legislative tracker for a full rundown on all of the bills.) And that doesn’t include a failed measure in Arizona last year.
So far, not too many states have made progress on passing legislation. The ones that have:
When Zalewski picked out Iowa and Texas, he picked two states on the opposite sides of the spectrum. State law in Iowa prevents DFS contests, currently, but a bill would simply legalize real-money DFS.
Meanwhile, DFS is considered legal in Texas, but that state’s bill would be a big change for sites operating there. Here is what the Texas bill would do, if it passes as is:
Having states pursuing legislation that regulates DFS is a far murkier proposition for the industry. The Texas bill is pretty vague, and allows the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to set up rules for DFS sites. And obviously we don’t know exactly what the Illinois bill will do, yet.
But consider some of the possibilities, if regulation/licensing of DFS sites were to become widespread:
Of course, no state has passed a bill yet, and we can’t be certain how Texas or Illinois is going to approach the issue, if these bills make any headway. And certainly some lawmakers might be loathe to mess with the average voter’s ability to play fantasy sports.
If potential regulation is limited to a state or two, the worries for DFS aren’t that great. But as momentum grows for states to legislate or even regulate DFS, the implications for the industry down the road are far from clear.