SPRINGFIELD — A bill that would legalize and regulate online fantasy sports betting in Illinois has hit a major snag amid an apparent ethics scandal involving a lobbyist.
State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, said in a House Judiciary-Criminal Committee meeting on Thursday she had become privy to an email from a FanDuel lobbyist to the Black Caucus that offered donations in exchange for a guarantee of votes. She called that exchange “inappropriate.”
And that was enough for her, and several other members of the House Black Caucus — which she chairs – to take a big step away from the bill.
“He did that without consulting myself, or other members of the caucus, but what he sent out was unethical, and in my opinion illegal,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield said she reported the lobbyist to an ethics officer immediately.
“The email basically alleged that in exchange for considerations, donations, that he could guarantee votes. That’s illegal. We have a former governor in jail right now for doing that, so it is an issue,” Mayfield said, adding she wasn’t comfortable voting on the bill.
Mayfield said she learned from the head lobbyist that the lobbyist in question is still employed.
“I was told that he did nothing wrong. So the fact that your company is denying that this person committed a crime, which he did, that was a crime for them to even allude to that. It was criminal and it was totally unethical, so there’s a problem,” Mayfield said.
But Jeremy Kudon, the national lobbying point person for DraftKings and FanDuel, denied the accusations.
“We categorically reject the implication that DraftKings or FanDuel would partake in such behavior,” Kudon said in a statement. “We do not condone this type of activity. It’s simply not how we do business, here or anywhere in the country.”
The snag comes as the fantasy sports industry continues a major lobbying effort throughout the country, which began in February and was coordinated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.
Under the bill, fantasy sports operators would be charged fees and taxes based on how much revenue they get. Application fees would range from $500 for companies that made less than $100,000 a year to $37,500 for companies that bring in $10 million or more.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan last December issued an opinion that deemed fantasy sports gaming illegal. That led to an Illinois House bill to regulate the online industry that would set an age limit of 21 and older and would limit insider trading by stopping employees from playing on their own sites or competitors’.
On one side of the rink is the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, which represents mega daily fantasy sports companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings. On the other is the Illinois Gaming Board — which would be tasked with regulating the industry — and Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.
Although the House committee did not vote on the bill, it may come for a vote as soon as Sunday. The bill cleared the Illinois Senate last week.