As a programming exercise, I'm writing a Web app that creates a parimutuel
system of betting on cycling events. The intention is to have a fantasy bookmaking operation, where one can predict various outcomes for cycling races and score imaginary money (or points). You know, for fun. (Cycling book is common and sanctioned in Europe, but there's no such action here.)
I'm wondering, however, what I am allowed to do before this is considered "gambling." I'd really like to offer prizes, for example, to motivate people to play and play well. I'd also like to eventually have a nominal fee for creating an account ($1 or so) to discourage, umm, "gaming" the system by creating sham accounts, as well as to encourage players to behave as if their imaginary money had value.
Illinois' gaming statutes read
, in part, that a person gambles when he "Plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value ... Makes a wager upon the result of any game, contest, or any political nomination, appointment or election."
Consider the following scenarios:
1. Free to play, no prizes.
2. Free to play, prizes for top winners.
3. Nominal charge to play, no prizes.
4. Nominal charge to play, prizes.
IANAL, but I'm reasonably certain that (1.) is in the clear.
But would merely offering prizes run afoul of the law? Technically I'd be offering a "game of skill ... for a thing of value." But that seems to prohibit a wide range of common activities, from Rotisserie baseball to trivia contests to ring tosses at the carnival (not to mention commodity futures at CBOT).
And if I were to charge to use the service, would that make the predictions "wagers," even if no subsequent money changes hands? I'd sort of see it akin to a cardroom, where the house charges for admission but not necessarily for the actual gambling.
(I realize that if this becomes a reality I'll probably want to seek professional counsel. I'm just curious whether this is a hopeless vision from the outset.)