Illinois Lawmaker Files Bill To Counter Dave and Buster’s Proposed Betting App

Written By T.J. McBride on May 8, 2024
Arcade basketball hoop close up, signifying IL lawmaker proposing ban on betting on arcade-style games.

Some have taken issue with plans by Dave and Buster’s to create a betting app so friends and family can compete against each other for money while playing games at the arcade.

One of those was Illinois state Rep. Daniel Didech. He recently introduced House Bill 5832, which would outlaw gambling at family entertainment businesses.

With 30 co-sponsors, HB 5832 is on a fast track to get passed before the General Assembly session ends in three weeks.

Gaming Software Company Lucra Will Design the Platform

Illinois allows sports betting, the Lottery and poker to be played online, but it still has not made Illinois online casinos legal in the Land of Lincoln. Lawmakers introduced legislation to add iGaming to the state’s online gambling options in 2023, but the bills haven’t gained much traction.

Dave and Buster’s recently announced its intention to work with gaming software company Lucra to put together a social platform in which customers could bet against each other on select games.

Loyalty rewards members could also earn rewards and unlock exclusive perks while wagering small amounts through the app, said Dave & Buster’s SVP of Entertainment and Attractions Simon Murray.

“We’re thrilled to work with Lucra to bring this exciting new gaming platform to our customers. This new partnership gives our loyalty member real-time, unrivaled gaming experiences, and reinforce our commitment to continuing to elevate our customer experience through innovative, cutting-edge technology.”

There are five Dave and Buster’s locations in Illinois.

Lawmaker Says Consumers Would Be At Risk

As constructed, HB 5832 would not impact Illinois video gaming terminals (VGTs). The slots-like machines are legal in the state. Businesses that house VGTs and the VGT operators themselves are sure to be in favor of the bill. The Dave and Buster’s wagering app could impact them financially at a time when some businesses are reporting slipping revenue from the machines.

The bill makes it illegal for family amusement establishments to market, promote, or offer real-money wagering on amusement games.

The term “amusement games” is defined in the bill as:

“A game or machine which a person activates by inserting or using currency or a coin, card, coupon, slug, token or similar device, and the person playing or operating the game or machine operating the game or machine impacts the outcome of the game.”

Didech outlined his intensions for introducing 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.”

Didech later told CNBC that Dave and Buster’s has not thought the idea through.

“None of those protections are in place at Dave & Buster’s locations. They haven’t even remotely done their due diligence.”

Illinois lawmakers Not the Only Ones Concerned

Illinois lawmakers are not the only ones finding fault with Dave and Buster’s plans. Officials in other states are voicing concerns.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Casino Control Commission told CNBC that the betting app could be against the law in Ohio.

“The commission does have 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 are reaching out to Dave & Buster’s for additional information.”

Bret Abarbanel, executive director of the International Gaming Institute, told CNBC that there needs to be protections in place for consumers, especially for children.

“Regardless of the legal classification of the activity as ‘not gambling’ vs. ‘gambling,’ this is an activity in which participants are risking something of value on an outcome that is uncertain. Therefore, there should be consumer protection measures in place for players, particularly when the target audience is skewed toward younger participants.”

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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver. He covers the gaming landscape across multiple states in addition to his main beat covering the NBA's Denver Nuggets. His NBA work can be found at several major media outlets including ESPN, FiveThirtyEight and Bleacher Report.

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