News Local/State

Fantasy Sports Companies Support Regulation In Illinois

Rep. Michael Zalewski talking about his legislation that would regulate fantasy sports contests.

Sarah Mueller/WUIS

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association and its 300 members, which include ESPN and Yahoo, are backing legislation that would make daily fantasy games legal in Illinois. It would also characterize the contests as games of skill.

Rep. Michael Zalewski talking about his legislation that would regulate fantasy sports contests. On the left is Peter Schoenke, chairman of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. On the right is Tony Giordano, co-founder of SideLeague.

Peter Schoenke, the association's chairman, said more than two million Illinois residents play the games for free and for cash prizes. He said studies show that there's more involved to winning than just leaving it up to fate.

"There's a group of people that win more regularly," he said. "They just have innate abilities to study players, they do more homework, they do more research. They apply skill to the games and they win more."

But at least one Illinois-based fantasy sports company, SideLeague, doesn't offer games in the state right now. SideLeague co-founder Tony Giordano said that's because Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion late last year that categorized daily fantasy sports betting as illegal gambling.

State Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, is sponsoring legislation that would exempt fantasy sports from state gambling laws. He said it would help small businesses like SideLeague.

"So when you couple fantasy football, which is something everybody loves, with a bill that will grow Illinois jobs and Illinois' economy, this should be something that Democrats and Republicans in Illinois can agree on together and move forward on," he said.

SideLeague would start offering games in the state again if Illinois passed the legislation to regulate daily fantasy sports, Giordano said. The industry's two major fantasy sports companies, FanDuel and DraftKings, also support the legislation.​