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Illinois Legislator Explains Bill To Prohibit Dave & Buster’s From Facilitating Wagers On Amusement Games

Written By Matthew Kredell | Updated:
Skee-Ball Games

Illinois Rep. Dan Didech is looking to bust Dave & Buster’s plan to facilitate app wagers on amusement games before it even starts.

On Tuesday, Dave & Buster’s announced a partnership with Lucra to incorporate its peer-to-peer recreational wagering software into the Dave & Buster’s app.

Didech found the idea of a local restaurant, arcade and sports bar facilitating wagers on games such as Skee-Ball and Hot Shot so objectionable that he rushed out legislation in record time.

It only took Didech, who chairs the Illinois House Gaming Committee, two days to file HB5832, the Family Amusement Wagering Prohibition Act.

Didech spoke with PlayUSA about what motivated him to file the bill so quickly.

“What they announced is just so inappropriate. In the past few years, gambling has expanded in a lot of ways that I think are good, but in the process become a much larger part of daily life for a lot of people. I think there are some spaces and environments that are just not appropriate for gambling to be pushed on people, especially places where there are lots of children. The Dave & Buster’s in my district is in a mall. It just doesn’t make sense for a whole host reasons for them to be getting into this the way they are.”

Details of the Family Amusement Wagering Prohibition Act

Didech’s bill is fairly simple. It establishes that:

  • No family amusement establishment shall facilitate wagering on amusement games.
  • No family amusement establishment shall engage in advertising that promotes wagering on amusement games.

The bill then alters the Illinois criminal code regarding gambling to criminalize violating the points above.

In a statement, Didech explained:

“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.”

There surely already are adults who place friendly small-money wagers with each other on competitive arcade games at Dave & Buster’s, paying each other in cash or by Venmo. But Didech told PlayUSA he doesn’t think the company needs to push such activity, particularly where kids play.

“In all of our regulated gambling establishments in Illinois, we have very strict requirements that protect children from being overly exposed to gambling. That is a big red flag in what they’re trying to do. I think them announcing this is open to people 18 and older when, in Illinois, you have to be 21 and older to gamble is a big problem.”

Didech believes there are other problematic issues that need discussion regarding Dave & Buster’s plan.

“There’s a whole host of security issues. Any time money is changing hands in person or over the internet, there’s security implications. Also, is local law enforcement going to be involved with this and how does this interact with their liquor license? There’s a whole lot of angles in this that need to be considered thoughtfully in a way I don’t think they have.”

It’s unclear from the news release what Dave & Buster’s would set as a maximum wager and if the company would take any cut on the action.

Short time frame to pass any Illinois gambling legislation

Illinois’ legislative session is set to end May 24, giving Didech three weeks to pass the bill.

The bill was assigned to the Rules Committee, presumably to then get assigned to Didech’s House Gaming Committee.

Didech said he would spend the next week having conversations with regulators from the Illinois Gaming Board and stakeholders in the gaming industry, restaurant industry and local law enforcement. Then he will look to move the bill through the Gaming Committee.

“The hope is in the next three weeks something will come together that puts in place regulations and responds to concerns raised.”

Dave & Buster’s could roll out the feature to its loyalty program database at its 222 North American facilities in the next few months.

If Dave & Buster’s were to pull back its proposal from nationwide backlash, Didech would do the same with his legislation. Otherwise, he will push for its passage this month.

“If they were to announce that they’ve changed their mind and not going to do it, it would take some of the urgency off legislating the issue. But it’s probably something we should do anyway. They’re not the only business that would fall under this category.”

Photo by Shutterstock/Michael Warwick photo
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Written by
Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell serves as senior lead writer of legislative affairs involving online gambling at PlayUSA. He began covering efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2007 after federal passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act disrupted his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker. He has since interviewed more than 300 lawmakers around the country and written extensively about online gambling legislation. He has led coverage of bills to legalize online gambling in most states. A lifelong Angeleno and USC journalism alum, Matthew started his career working as a sportswriter for a decade at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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