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Illinois attorney general bans DraftKings, FanDuel as 'illegal gambling' operations

"Why the Attorney General would tell her 13.5 million constituents they can’t play fantasy sports anymore ... is beyond us," FanDuel said in a response Thursday.

By Doug G. Ware
Illinois attorney general bans DraftKings, FanDuel as 'illegal gambling' operations
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Wednesday concluded that daily fantasy sports contests, like those operated by DraftKings and FanDuel, constitute illegal gambling in her state and barred the sites from accepting money from Illinois residents. Thursday, FanDuel criticized Madigan's decision and expressed hope that the Illinois General Assembly will pass legislation to exempt fantasy sports contests from the stte's law against gambling. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The top law enforcement officer in Illinois has barred fantasy football sites DraftKings and FanDuel from collecting money from residents there because she says the operations amount to gambling -- which is illegal in the state.

After an investigation, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan concluded that paying money to play fantasy football with the hope of winning cash prizes meets the definition of gambling under state law.

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"Participants must pay an entry fee or buy-in amount in order to win a prize. Consequently, the act of playing daily fantasy sports contests in Illinois constitutes illegal gambling," she wrote in a report Wednesday, which cites numerous legal precedents.

"Unlike traditional fantasy sports contests, which operate on a season-long timetable, daily fantasy sports contests are conducted over short-term periods, such as a week or a single day of competition," she added.

RELATED New York judge rules against DraftKings, FanDuel

DraftKings and FanDuel, which have each been investigated in recent months over allegations of "insider information," have repeatedly claimed their operations are protected by a 2006 federal law that exempts fantasy sports from a law barring wagers from being processed online.

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Madigan, however, disagrees with the interpretation of the law. She notes that both fantasy leagues even state on their websites that their games are not available to residents in states that have laws prohibiting gambling.

"The [Illinois] Criminal Code prohibits the playing of both 'games of chance or skill for money," she wrote, citing the state's definition of gambling and noting that one-time violations constitute a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois. Two or more offenses, she said, become a Class 4 felony.

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In her conclusion, Madigan also noted there is currently legislation in the Illinois General Assembly that seeks to exempt fantasy sports sites from the state's ban on gambling.

"It appears that a number of General Assembly members have reached this same conclusion, as they have agreed to sponsor the foregoing legislation," Madigan said.

Because the proposed legislation is not yet law, Madigan said daily fantasy sports sites "constitute illegal gambling under Illinois law."

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Madigan's conclusion is another blow to the New York- and Boston-based websites, which have been trying to fend off multiple legal challenges for weeks.

"Chicago may be the best sports town in the country. It's a city -- and Illinois is a state -- that plays fantasy sports like almost no other," FanDuel responded in a statement Thursday. "So why the Attorney General would tell her 13.5 million constituents they can't play fantasy sports anymore as they know it -- and make no mistake, her opinion bans all forms of fantasy sports played for money -- is beyond us.

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"Hopefully, the legislature will give back to the people of Illinois the games they love. A sports town like Chicago and a sports-loving state like Illinois deserves nothing less."

RELATED N.Y. attorney general says fantasy football leagues are 'illegal gambling' operations

Last month, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also declared that DraftKings and FanDuel are illegal gambling operations under the law in his state -- barring the sites from accepting money from New York residents.

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