DraftKings CEO Fires Insult at Rush Street in Illinois Sports Betting Spat

Posted on: August 25, 2020, 02:33h. 

Last updated on: August 26, 2020, 11:58h.

DraftKings CEO Jason Robins on Monday said that it “felt good” that his company was finally taking mobile sports betting registrations in Illinois after a U-turn by Governor J. B. Pritzker (D) on the issue last Friday.

Jason Robins DraftKings
DraftKing’s Jason Robins has been shooting his mouth off on Twitter, and Rush Street Gaming is not amused. (Image: WBUR)

But at the same time, Robins couldn’t resist a dig at his old adversary, Rush Street Gaming, which had lobbied to shut him out of the market until 2022, and had almost succeeded.

In a tweet first spotted by SportsHandle, Robins described Rush Street as “corrupt idiots” for trying to block DraftKings in Illinois, while praising Pritzker for “doing what’s right for the citizens of Illinois.”

When approached for a comment by SH, an incensed Rush Street shot back that it had “never been asked to leave a state, pays taxes on every wager, and has not been named in multiple consumer class-action suits.”

Rush Street, operator of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, is referring to DraftKing’s past life as an unlicensed daily fantasy sports operator, which is where the antagonism between the two companies begins.

Penalty Box

In December 2015, then-Illinois AG Lisa Madigan joined New York and a handful of other states in declaring the DFS contests offered by DraftKings and rival FanDuel to be illegal gambling games. It was a position that was hotly disputed by the two operators.

This resulted in several class-action lawsuits from former DraftKings and FanDuel customers, who were hoping to claw back lost buy-ins in states where the DFS sites’ operations were suddenly deemed illegal.

As Illinois prepared to legalize sports betting last year as part of a sprawling gambling expansion package, Rivers was furious that so-called “bad actors” should be permitted to enter the market with a ready-made customer-base to leverage.

My client has paid $125 million at an auction for a casino license. My client has paid $1.6 billion of revenue — legal tax revenue — to the state,” Paul Gaynor, a lawyer for Rivers, told WTTW News at the time. “Meantime, the illegal operators who have been operating daily fantasy sports in violation of our criminal laws, they have not been paying a dime.”

Rivers’ lobbyists went to work, convincing lawmakers to establish a so-called “penalty box,” which meant digital-only operators that were not partnered with land-based casinos could not receive a license until 2022. Until then, all mobile sports betting offered by existing licensed operators would have to take in-person registrations.

Robins argued that by freezing out the most experienced digital operators, the state would be denying itself tax dollars, while Rush Street CEO Neil Bluhm was using “political muscle to box out the competition so [he] can profit.”

Who Can Lobby Harder?

But DraftKings, FanDuel, and others in the digital space also have lobbyists, and last Friday, they got their way. Pritzker first waived the in-person registration requirement in June, when sports began to return, but the casinos remained closed.

But in July, when Pritzker renewed the COVID-19 state of emergency in Illinois, he did so without renewing the order waiving the registration requirement.

On Friday, to Robins’ delight, it was back.

“Good policy always wins in the long-run,” he taunted in Monday’s provocative message. Two hours later, he thought better and deleted his tweet.