Dave & Buster’s Plan for In-App Betting Sparks Regulatory Concerns


In a buzz-worthy move last week, popular entertainment venue, Dave & Buster’s announced its intention to add an engaging new element to their arcade games. The company’s plans of creating a peer-to-peer in-app betting system sparked controversy even before it has seen the light of day, met with apprehension from gaming regulators and policymakers who are questioning whether the new initiative might sidestep gambling laws.

Dave & Buster’s, in collaboration with the gamification software developer, Lucra, is in the process of integrating social betting into their “D&B Rewards” mobile app. This move comes in the wake of a growing interest in social gaming culture, where friendly wagers are placed between friends and family on skill-inclined games, akin to many popular gaming applications available today.

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However, Illinois State Rep. Daniel Didech doesn’t share the same optimistic viewpoint. The lawmaker from Buffalo Grove heard of Dave & Buster’s wagering plans and promptly announced his intentions to draft new legislation in the Springfield capital to restrict such gambling activities from taking root across game-centered venues throughout the Land of Lincoln.

His concerns lie not only with gambling regulations but with public safety, pointing out that underage gambling would become a potential issue when in-app betting becomes a reality at the family-friendly arcade. Lucra’s platforms, which revolve around real-money contests and challenges under the guise of friendly competition, reportedly have limited safeguards in place to dissuade minors from participating.

Didech reinforced the need for strict regulation. “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,” he said.

The lawmaker also argued that while Lucra’s betting services are reserved for adults aged 18 and above, the D&B Rewards app lacks a foolproof age verification system. He fears that retail and online sportsbooks’ regulations fall short in this setting.

The Ohio Gaming Commission went one step further, highlighting a potential violation of the Ohio law concerning prizes for skill-based amusement machines and stated they would be seeking further clarification from Dave & Buster’s.

The controversy comes at a transformative time for Dave & Buster’s. The enterprise currently operates 200 locations in North America, including over 160 venues in the U.S and nine locations in Illinois and Ohio.

Recognizing an evolving audience, Dave & Buster’s recently announced a new strategy aimed at increasing the appeal of its brand among the 21- to 39-year-old demographic. CEO, Chris Morris stated that this shift will “guide our marketing strategy, entertainment innovation pipeline, food and beverage offering, store design and layout, and tech-enabled hospitality model.”

However, according to Brett Abarbanel, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at UNLV, Dave & Buster’s should ensure there are solid “consumer protection measures in place for players” since their target audience leans towards younger ages. With this renewed focus on an older demographic, Dave & Buster’s will need to tread carefully to ensure the stability of its brand while not alienating their core audience.