The sports betting and daily fantasy sports giants will launch a $1 million ad campaign targeted at Rivers Des Plaines Casino and owner Neil Bluhm of Rush Street Gaming. Churchill Downs Incorporated and Rush Street jointly own the property following a $407 million transaction closed in March.
The multi-channel advertising push claims Rivers wants to exclude DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook from IL sports betting to benefit its property. FanDuel already threatened a lawsuit challenging any bad-actor language targeted at the company.
Why the bad actor debate?
The proposal pushed by Rivers ostensibly would penalize the companies for allegedly operating outside state law in the DFS space earlier in the decade.
Less than 10 days remain in Illinois' 2019 legislative session. Rep. Mike Zalewski continues his work to legalize IL sports betting but his final proposal remains a long shot to pass at this late hour.
What exactly is in these ads?
According to information from a Chicago public affairs firm representing the companies, DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook will air five days of “advocacy” advertisements in the Illinois sports betting battle:
… advocacy advertisements will air on radio broadcast and cable, state- and city-wide, including morning and evening news, late-night talk shows and live sporting events. There will also be a multichannel digital engagement campaign across social media, search, YouTube and over-the-top streaming providers, including Hulu, Roku and radio providers like Spotify and Pandora.”
The first ad, which frames Rivers as denying needed tax revenue to Illinois, can be seen here:
Rivers is located near O'Hare International Airport in the suburbs of Chicago. The company also operates sportsbooks at its casinos in Pennsylvania.
IL sports betting proposals all over the board
The first iteration of this year's attempt at Illinois sports betting featured five varied proposals, including one including the bad-actor language targeted at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Rivers representative Paul Gaynor backed the idea in March.
“Without language barring bad actors from the licensing process, the proposed legislation would ignore DraftKings and (FanDuel’s) pattern of criminal conduct and reward bad actors who to this day refuse to comply with the laws,” Gaynor said.
Proposals trying to help the governor
Each of those attempted to meet a request from Gov. J.B. Pritzker for more than $200 million in new revenue from 20 online sports betting licenses at $10 million each. Then came a revised set of two proposals this month with unusual elements including online license fees up to $20 million.
Zalewski quickly responded to criticism of those proposals with one last attempt at compromise. But even the optimistic representative admitted the bad-actor situation threatens to derail any Illinois sports betting bill this year.
“This issue consumes all the oxygen related to sports betting right now,” Zalewski said. “We know we need to make a decision on whether to include a penalty box or not. We still haven’t reached a consensus way to move forward on this.”
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