All’s fair in love and war or, as English writer and courtier John Lyly put it in his romantic novel Euphues: “Anye impietie may lawfully be committed in love, which is lawlesse.” We can’t be certain that’s where Rivers Des Plaines Casino looked for reassurance or inspiration when it decided to take on DraftKings and FanDuel over the right to offer sports betting in Illinois. But there’s no love lost in the war that’s brewing and everyone, it seems, is fair game.
For those who haven’t caught up with this latest sports betting story, Rivers argues that DraftKings and FanDuel should be barred from operating in Illinois on the grounds that they allegedly breach a ‘bad actor’ clause that’s being debated in the state’s sports wagering legislature.
The proposed clause, which is being promoted by Rivers (apparently), would preclude both firms for three years on the alleged grounds that they have previously operated their daily fantasy sports businesses outside of state law.
By way of a high-profile rejoinder, DraftKings and FanDuel are to launch a $1m multi-channel advertising campaign directed back at Rivers to the effect that the casino is merely attempting to protect its own interests.
Respected news service Legal Sports Report was typically hot on the case this week and managed to obtain a rather tasty quote from Rivers spokesperson Paul Gaynor who said: “It’s not surprising that FanDuel and DraftKings are spending $1m to try and buy a duopoly after years of engaging in conduct that the Attorney General concluded clearly constituted illegal gambling, without following regulations, paying taxes or paying licensing fees.
“Now they want to be rewarded for their improper behavior and put in front of the line ahead of gaming entities who complied with the law and regulations, paid taxes and put thousands of Illinois residents to work.
“While we support the legalization of sports betting, what we don’t support are companies that brazenly operate outside the rules, which is why a regulatory waiting period would ensure the integrity of sports betting and that they fully and readily comply with the same strict regulations already being followed by existing gaming operators.”
Gaynor’s point is well made, but it does little to mask the fact that a three-year exclusion period would give Rivers a hefty lead on the competition, allowing it to build significant brand loyalty while DraftKings and FanDuel can only watch the action from the cheap seats.
Much of Rivers’ approach rests heavily on the opinion of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan published in December 2015 which found that DFS was illegal in the state. Open and shut case then. Well not entirely as we have already seen with the Department of Justice and the perplexing way in which it revised its opinion of the Wire Act. It’s all a matter of opinion – legal opinion – but opinion nonetheless.
Now we’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating; opinions are like assholes, everyone has one but they think each others’ stink. And until they’re challenged in a court of law to the point where they cease to become opinions, they tend to be as effective as an ashtray on a Harley.
As journalists all we can do is watch without judgment and bias as the drama plays out and unfolds, in this case via a series of eye-wateringly expensive ads on TV and social media. But with only a matter of days to go before the closure of the current legislative session in Illinois, one gets the feeling that a disproportionate amount of hot air and dollars might just be going to waste on sports betting legislation that doesn’t appear to have time on its side.
That’s just our opinion, of course. And you know how we feel about those!