Board claims operator provided inducements
The Illinois Gaming Board is looking to impose a $5m fine on Accel Entertainment, one of the biggest video gambling operators in the United States.
According to the complaint from the gambling regulator, the company made an agreement with sports betting operator DraftKings to pay commissions that would incentivize business owners to house Accel gambling machines at their premises.
Accel’s payout of $21,000 worth of commissions was in violation of the Illinois Gaming Act
It is currently illegal for operators of video gambling machines in Illinois to provide “inducements” to retain business or gain new market share. The regulatory body alleges that Accel’s payout of $21,000 worth of commissions was in violation of the Illinois Gaming Act.
Accel CEO and president Andrew Rubenstein did not comment on the complaint when contacted on December 20 by WBEZ. However, he confirmed that the company plans to fight the allegations, saying: “This was two public companies that absolutely knew what they were doing and following the law.”
An agreement with DraftKings
The eight-page complaint outlines how Accel would provide advertising space to DraftKings on the screens of its video gambling devices. The operator would pocket $200 for each customer who joined the sportsbook through its efforts, subject to certain conditions being met. Accel would then share a portion of the profits with business owners hosting the machines mainly in bars and restaurants.
The gaming board received a copy of email correspondence that passed between the chief commercial officer at Accel and DraftKings. Here, the former asks for the final agreement to state that Accel would forward part of the revenue coming from DraftKings to the said business owners, saying:
We want it in the agreement so the gaming board can see that we are operating as a pass through for the commissions.”
Another email from Accel sought further essential clarifications to the agreement. This would ensure that the video gambling firm did not appear to violate Illinois Gaming Board rules by compensating local business partners from its own financial resources, but rather that “we are passing these funds from (DraftKings) to the (video gambling establishments).”
According to the gaming board’s complaint, Accel was in full control of the payments from DraftKings and was using them to secure priority with existing and future partners.
Not the first time in hot water
This is not the first time Accel has faced accusations of wrongdoing in Illinois. ProPublica Illinois published allegations in March that the operator had leveraged Illinois Gaming Board connections when video gambling regulations were in their draft stage. This happened at a time of fierce competition among operators to secure lucrative gambling locations.
Accel reportedly received internal board documents containing details on competitors. Meanwhile, certain board decisions taken favored Accel’s market access and put other operators at a disadvantage.
In light of these allegations, the gaming board started an investigation into the correspondence between its former top lawyer and Accel. The board has not provided any updates on the progress of the investigation.