FOX 32's Dane Placko contributed to this report
CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois would regulate daily fantasy sports websites and add consumer protections under a proposal filed Tuesday by a state legislator who said his plan could spark discussions about how to handle a fast-growing industry under scrutiny nationwide.
Under the legislation, using sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel wouldn't be considered gambling in Illinois, but companies would need policies for audits and barring employees from competing. The legislation also prohibits players under 18 and allows sites to check players for child support obligations or tax liens.
Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat, said his plan could be at the forefront of overseeing the popular emerging technology where some payouts top $1 million.
"Players with interests are protected. We don't have people playing the games who shouldn't be playing," he said. "We should have some best practices to make sure everyone has a level playing field."
The Illinois legislation comes as other states are trying to determine whether the popular websites are legal.
Earlier this month, Nevada regulators ordered them shut down, saying they couldn't operate without a gambling license. The sites insist they are skill-based wagers, not luck-based, so gambling regulations don't apply.
"Game of chance or game of skill is still a game. And it still effects a person's brain the same way," said Anita Pindiur.
Pindiur is a counselor who works with people addicted to gambling. She says they are starting to see patients who regularly play daily fantasy sports as part of a larger gambling addiction, and she hopes the bill requires the companies to earmark funds for treatment.
"Like anything else, if there's exposure there's a percentage of people who will be suffering and will have a problem and will develop an addiction," Pindiur said.
Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O'Shea wouldn't comment on the legislation Tuesday, saying such sites are "currently under review" in the state. He previously said he believes the sites are illegal in Illinois, and the board would seek a legal opinion. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office said Tuesday that no opinion had been issued.
The industry, which points to an exemption under a 2006 Internet gambling act, appeared on board with the Illinois proposal. Boston-based DraftKings said in a company statement that the legislation "represents a reasonable and measured step toward oversight of fantasy sports."
IN A STATEMENT, FANDUEL SAYS: "(We have) always focused on maintaining the integrity of our games and the trust of our players. We welcome the opportunity to work with Rep. Zalewski and lawmakers in Illinois to safeguard consumers, introduce best practices that the entire fantasy industry can adhere to."
Zalewski said he would pursue the legislation in the spring. Legislative Democrats and first-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner are at an impasse over a state budget for the fiscal year that began in July.
The legislation is HB4323.