Dave & Buster’s Plan To Allow Friendly Bets Faces Potential Ban In Illinois

Not everyone is pleased with Dave & Buster’s plans to add a real money skill gaming option to its arcade experience. One critic in a position to do something about it is Illinois Rep. Dan Didech, who introduced a bill to prohibit precisely the sort of plan the family entertainment chain announced last week. Dave & Buster’s partnered with skill gaming company Lucra Sports to facilitate customers’ “friendly wagers” on games like Hot Shots and Skee-Ball.

Didech’s proposed legislation arrived only two days after Dave & Buster’s unveiled its plans. While the legislation doesn’t target Dave & Buster’s by name, Didech made no secret of that it had been the impetus for the bill. HB5832, known as the Family Amusement Wagering Prohibition Act, prohibits any “family amusement establishment” from:

  • Allowing wagering on amusement games.
  • Advertising and promoting wagering on amusement games.

Establishments can still offer amusement games that award tokens or coupons, which players can redeem on-site for merchandise. HB5832 also amends the Illinois criminal code to criminalize engagement in banned activities.

Dave & Buster’s Plan Is “Inappropriate”

In a press release, Rep. Didech, who serves as the Illinois House Gaming Committee chairman, said he sees a lot of issues with Dave & Buster’s plan. He called it inappropriate and added,

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.

The bill’s sponsor told CNBC that Dave and Buster’s idea would expose minors to gambling. He added that the legal age to gamble in Illinois is 21, yet the arcade chain plan allows customers over 18 to wager against each other.

Legal definitions of gambling typically hinge on the phrase “games of chance,” while cash prizes for contests of skill are generally allowed. However, many states are currently figuring out how to deal with a flood of new products that blur that line.

Didech’s proposal has proven popular, and the Family Amusement Wagering Prohibition Act has 27 cosponsors. It sits in the Rules Committee, from which it should advance to the House Gaming Committee, which Didech chairs.

However, the legislation must move quickly if it is to become law. The 2024 Illinois legislative session will end in less than three weeks.

Concerns With Lack of Information and Player Safety

Rep. Didech isn’t the only public official to have taken notice of Dave & Buster’s entry to the skill game segment. The Ohio Gaming Control Board has also expressed concern. The notoriously tough regulator told CNBC it has reached out to Dave & Buster’s for more information on its plans and added:

The Commission does have serious concerns about the proposal – including that it appears to violate Ohio law regarding the facilitating of illegal prizes for skill-based amusement machines.

One common complaint is that Dave & Buster’s hasn’t provided specifics on how it will promote responsible gaming. Brett Abarbanel, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, says she is interested in what safeguards the chain will implement. According to Abarbanel, regardless of the legal status of skill games, they involve risking something of value on an uncertain outcome. That means Dave & Buster’s must take customer protection measures, especially because arcade games appeal to younger audiences.

Dr. Lia Nower, Director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University, told the New York Times she’s concerned about children going to Dave & Buster’s and being exposed to adults placing bets. Nower believes that early exposure could lead to gambling addiction and other problems.

Dave & Buster’s hasn’t yet responded to the criticism. However, Lucra has pointed to the Lucra Sports app and its responsible gaming features. These include parental controls, self-exclusion, and self-imposed limits on deposits, number of entries, and contest sites.

About the Author

Chav Vasilev

Chav Vasilev

After years of managing fast-casual restaurants, Chav turned his passion for sports and occasional slot wins into a career as an iGaming writer. Sharing his time between Europe and the US, he has been exposed to betting and gambling for years and has closely followed the growth in the US. Chav is a proponent of playing responsibly and playing only at legal online sites. When not writing, you will find him watching and betting on sports, especially soccer, or trying to land the next big bonus on a slot.
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