Dave & Busters Betting Plan Draws Lawmaker Ire

After arcade and restaurant chain Dave & Buster’s announced it will allow wagering on arcade games, an Illinois lawmaker quickly proposed a bill to ban such betting.

Dave & Busters Betting Plan Draws Lawmaker Ire

Dave & Buster’s, the Texas-based chain of bistro-style restaurants that feature video amusement arcades, announced last week that it will allow wagering on its arcade games. The plan drew swift scrutiny from lawmakers, particularly in Illinois.

Dave & Buster’s reached a partnership agreement with Lucra to offer real-money, peer-to-peer wagering on skill-based games including skee-ball and Pop-A-Shot basketball (aka, Hot Shots). Lucra claims those contests are not subject to licensing and regulation needed for both sports betting and online casino gaming.

Immediately after the announcement of the plan, Illinois state Representative Daniel Didech filed a bill to specifically ban family amusement establishments from allowing wagering on amusement games. Didech also is seeking to criminalize the activity through an amendment to the Illinois Criminal Code.

Didech’s bill, which has bipartisan support from more than two dozen other state legislators, outlined a litany of problems with the Dave & Buster’s plan, in a press statement and in an interview with CNBC.

“It is inappropriate for family-friendly arcades to facilitate unregulated gambling on their premises,” Didech said in the statement. “These businesses simply do not have the ability to oversee gambling activity in a safe and responsible manner.”

In an interview with CNBC, Didech, who is chairman of the Illinois House Gaming Committee, pointed out that the bistro chain has no protections in place against underage gambling or problem gambling, among other issues. “None of those protections are in place at Dave & Buster’s locations. They haven’t even remotely done their due diligence,” Didech said.

Officials in Ohio also slammed the proposal. “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,” a spokesperson for the Ohio Casino Control Commission told CNBC. “We are reaching out to Dave & Buster’s for additional information.”

“Regardless of the legal classification of the activity as ‘not gambling’ vs. ‘gambling,’ this is an activity in which participants are risking something of value on an outcome that is uncertain,” commented Brett Abarbanel, executive director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, International Gaming Institute, according to CNBC. “Therefore, there should be consumer protection measures in place for players, particularly when the target audience is skewed toward younger participants.”