February 25, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) A trade association for online daily fantasy sports sites said Thursday it supports an Illinois House plan to regulate online sports betting as the sites' legality has been challenged in the state and around the country.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association - which represents daily fantasy sports companies DraftKings, based in Boston, and New York-based FanDuel, as well as a number of smaller Illinois companies -backs the bill that will set a minimum age of 18 and limit insider trading by prohibiting employees from playing on their own sites or those of competitors.

''More than 2 million people in Illinois participate in fantasy sports contests, and they deserve clarity in the law and the right to play,'' said organization chairman Peter Schoenke.

The legislation comes after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion in December saying the games were illegal.

DraftKings and FanDuel, by far the largest operators in terms of player entry fees and prize money, argued the opinion could destroy a ''legitimate industry'' allowed by state law.

Bill sponsor Democratic Rep. Mike Zalewski said Thursday that the state's gambling laws don't make distinctions about online fantasy sports games.

''We're in the midst of this pitched battle in Illinois about what we're going to do to make it a pro-growth state,'' Zalewski said, adding that he hopes Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner will see the plan as a growth opportunity and sign it if it gets to his desk.

''When you couple fantasy football, which is something everybody loves, with a bill that will grow Illinois' jobs and Illinois' economy this should be something Democrats and Republicans in Illinois can agree on and move forward on together,'' the Riverside lawmaker said.

But opponents of the measure have said its means of cracking down on the proliferation of daily online gambling don't go far enough.

The Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems organization agrees with Madigan's court opinion, executive director Anita Bedell said, and added that the ''massive expansion of gambling'' that the proposal would allow could have ''huge ramifications.''

She said online gambling specifically targets young people, especially young men, under 30. Bedell said her organization plans to testify against the proposal and petition lawmakers to vote against it.

DraftKings and FanDuel have been banned in six states. And Virginia lawmakers have sent their governor legislation regulating the daily fantasy sports sites, which a DraftKings spokesman said is the first state to establish such a legal framework. New York, Texas and Nevada have also issued opinions challenging the legality of the industry.

In the past, Zalewski said, he was on the ''wrong side of the fight'' concerning new technologies, such as ride-sharing company Uber, but now wants to embrace new technologies.

Zalewski noted that SideLeague, a Chicago-based company and member of the fantasy sports association, is in ''legal limbo'' following Madigan's court opinion.

''Unlike DraftKings and FanDuel we don't have financial backing that would allow us to take on any litigation risk,'' said SideLeague co-owner Tony Giordano. ''We've stopped offering our contests in Illinois as of December.''

He said the company wants to continue to offer the daily online games to roughly 10,000 customers without the fear breaking the law.

Zalewski's proposal is scheduled for a judiciary committee hearing in April. He said while the court case involving DraftKings and FanDuel is pending the Illinois General Assembly has until late June to pass the plan.

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