Iowa Closer to Legalize Sports Betting

The legalization of sports betting in Iowa took two steps forward Thursday in the Iowa Capitol.

Committees in each chamber approved separate but comparable proposals that would allow Iowans to bet on professional and college athletic events and on daily fantasy sports websites.

The proposals would permit Iowa’s casinos to provide sports gambling in the casinos and on-line.

Revenue from sports betting could be taxed, and also the business would be regulated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who chairs the House committee contemplating the bill, said the question before state lawmakers isn’t whether or not sports gambling exists or will expand but whether or not the state should legalize, tax and regulate it.

“The Legislature has two choices,” Kaufmann said. “Option one, we are able to stick our head within the sand, click our heels and truly hope this goes away. Choice two is to regulate and tax (sports betting).”

A panel of 3 Iowa House Republicans and two Democrats approved the House proposal after hearing from myriad stakeholders.

Opponents, such as faith-based groups, said they do not support any form of gambling expansion in Iowa due to the potential for issues that arise from addiction.

Chuck Hurley, vice counsel and counsel for The Family Leader, caused a stir when he compared gambling to prostitution, noting that when gambling was first introduced in Iowa, proponents said it would help economic improvement.

“If you are in favor of promoting the gambling vice for economic development, what about prostitution?” Hurley asked.

Kaufmann responded tersely, “Seriously?”

A lobbyist for professional athletic organizations expressed disappointment their requests were not met in the House bill.

The leagues had asked for input into what types of in-game bets would be allowed, as well as a requirement that casinos buy leagues’ data that would decide the bets.

“We do still have concerns that this bill does not address making certain there’s a square game for all players and all bettors in Iowa,” said Christopher Rants, a former Home member who lobbies on behalf of professional baseball, basketball and golf leagues.

A representative for the casinos stated they’re pleased using the choice to have casinos operate sports betting in Iowa, but asked Home members to consist of a provision – that is within the Senate version of the bill – requiring bettors to initial establish a sports betting account in-person at a casino. As proposed, that requirement could be in place for the first 18 months.

The Senate proposal passed out of that chamber’s State Government Committee on an 8-6 vote, with one Republican joining the committee’s Democrats in voting against it.

Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, said he supports legalized sports betting but could not vote for the bill because it does yet specify the tax rate on sports betting income or the licensing fees the state will charge casinos that home sports betting.

The Home bill consists of each: a 6.75 percent tax on income and annual charges of $15,000 for sports betting and $5,000 for daily fantasy sports.

Those particulars will probably be added towards the Senate proposal as it moves towards the tax-writing committee.

Kaufmann said he will present the Home bill subsequent week to the House State Government Committee.

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