Bill Targeting Dave & Buster’s Awaits Illinois House Vote

Written By Phil West on May 23, 2024
Skee Ball machines, which Dan Didech's amendment would block Dave and Busters from allowing wagering on.

Rep. Daniel Didech is racing against the clock to get a bill against Dave & Buster’s passed before the Illinois House of Representatives adjourns on May 24.

House Bill 394 would block the popular arcade from using a betting app at its five locations in Illinois.

Didech confirmed to PlayIllinois this week that HB 394 is out of committee and awaits a full House vote. If it passes, the Senate would also be under the gun to pass it before the deadline.

Didech tagged on to another bill to speed up passage

While Illinois sports betting is legal and the state houses 16 retail casinos, Dave & Buster’s plan to allow friends and family to compete against each other for money while playing arcade games received a swift admonishment from Didech and dozens of other Illinois lawmakers.

In late April, Dave & Buster’s announced its intention to work with gaming software company Lucra on a social platform in which customers 18 and over could bet against each other on select games at the arcade.

Within days of the announcement, Didech filed House Bill 5832. It created the Family Amusement Wagering Prohibition Act, explicitly banning the sort of wagering Dave & Buster’s envisioned. More than 30 lawmakers signed on as co-sponsors.

To speed up the process, Didech switched gears, commandeering HB 394. It was created to slightly change wording in the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975. The representative added the language from HB 5832, and it now faces a final vote in the House.

Didech says businesses must be ‘safe for families’

Didech spoke to Legal Sports Report after a House Gaming Committee hearing he chaired earlier this week.

“The state of Illinois closely regulates our robust gaming industry to ensure that businesses are operating in a manner that is fair for players and safe for families. We do not need gambling to irresponsibly expand into family-friendly environments.”

Earlier, he stated his reasons for filing the legislation.

“Gambling establishments are among the most strictly regulated businesses in Illinois. Everyone involved in the gambling industry in Illinois undergoes thorough background checks, is required to implement security protocols, can only offer games that are fair and safe for players, and must create a responsible environment to protect minors and problem gamblers. It is inappropriate for family-friendly arcades to facilitate unregulated gambling on their premises. These businesses simply do not have the ability to oversee gambling activity in a safe and responsible manner.”

Legality questioned by others

Director of communications for the Ohio Casino Control Commission Jessica Franks told 614 Magazine that the commission was looking into the legality of Dave & Buster’s plan.

“The commission has serious concerns about the proposal – including that it appears to violate Ohio law regarding the facilitating of illegal prizes for skill-based amusement machines. We have reached out to Dave & Busters for additional information.”

The 614 Magazine article added that “crane/claw machines and arcade games and those found at family entertainment centers are considered ‘skill-based amusement games’ and that specific rules are in place about what types of prizes can be awarded through these games.”

Didech wrote provisions into his bill that allow skills games to continue in Illinois.

Marc Edelman, a law professor and the director of sports ethics at Baruch College in New York, told the New York Times that how the social platform is constructed could determine if it breaks gambling laws.

“If two people are competing against one another in Skee-Ball, presuming that there is nothing unusual done in the Skee-Ball game and physical skill is actually going to determine the winner, there is no problem. If I am taking a bet on whether someone else will win a Skee-Ball game, or whether someone else will achieve a particular score in Skee-Ball, if I myself am not engaged in a physical competition, that very likely would be seen as gambling.”

Illinois is not waiting to find out whether Dave & Buster’s plan is lawful. Lawmakers, led by Didech, intend on creating their own law banning the app before it is even created.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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