Iowa Legislature Approves Legal Sports Betting and DFS

The future of sports betting in Iowa is now in the hands of Governor Kim Reynolds. A bill approved by the Senate last week and by the House on Monday is now sitting on the desk of Governor Reynolds. Legal Iowa sports betting is now one signature away from fruition.

This bill will also finally bring daily fantast sports (DFS) to Iowa. The major fantasy sites have blocked customers from Iowa for years, but that too will change if this bill becomes law. In short, Iowans are on the verge of gaining access to a whole new range of sports-gaming options.

What the Iowa Sports Betting Bill Proposes

Senate File 617 seeks to legalize in-person sports betting, mobile/online betting and daily fantasy sports for approved operators in Iowa. Under this law, each of the state’s 19 casinos would be allowed to apply for licenses to operate mobile sportsbooks and up to two individually-branded mobile sports betting sites.

The bill allows college sports betting but prohibits wagers on in-state college teams and minor league sports. Inexpensive licenses, low tax rates and mobile betting all make this a favorable bill for customers and the industry itself. If this bill goes into law, Iowa betting sites and sportsbooks should be able to compete effectively against offshore and underground providers.

The only not-so-exciting thing found in the bill is a provision requiring in-person registration until 2021. This means Iowans will have to visit a casino in-person to sign up for mobile betting until the first day of 2021. Online registration will be allowed after that date.

SF 617 tasks the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) with regulating the industry, issuing licenses and monitoring licensees going forward.

Key sports betting provisions:

  • $45,000 licensing fee
  • $10,000 annual renewal fee for licensees
  • Casinos licensed for sports betting may each operate up to two individually-branded betting sites
  • Customers must be 21 or older and physically located in Iowa
  • Ensure coaches, players, officials, etc. connected to leagues are prevented from betting on sports
  • 75% tax rate on sports betting net receipts

Key DFS provisions:

  • $5,000 licensing fee
  • Annual fee of $1,000 for operators with less than $150,000 in annual revenue
  • Annual fee of $5,000 otherwise
  • Licenses valid for no longer than three years
  • Customers must be 21+ to play fantasy sports
  • Ensure coaches, players, officials, etc. connected to leagues are prevented from participating in DFS contests
  • Operators must segregate players’ funds from operating funds
  • Operators must conduct an annual audit
  • 75% tax rate for DFS

Lawmakers in support of the bill hope to get sports betting up and running in time for the upcoming NFL season. That is a relatively short timeframe for legislative matters, but SF 617 authorizes the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) to adopt emergency rules in order to facilitate a fast launch.

Emergency rules can be approved quickly to get the ball rolling and then regulators can come back around later to adjust/implement permanent regulations as needed.

Governor Reynolds Likely to Sign

With the House and Senate both on board, all that remains is for Governor Reynolds to sign off on the proposal. She has not committed one way or another to which way she will go, but current speculation among industry insiders is that she’s leaning toward signing the bill to turn it into law.

Of course, there are no guarantees at this point. Previously, Governor Reynolds explained she will be considering all viewpoints on the issue. The sports betting proposal faces significant opposition from religious anti-gambling groups, some lawmakers and no small percentage of the population.

A survey conducted back in February found most of the population against legalization. Some of the most striking results from the survey were:

  • 52% of respondents oppose legal sports betting in Iowa
  • 40% are in favor of legalization
  • 9% are unsure
  • 68% oppose college sports betting
  • 25% support college sports betting

Those numbers will surely be rolling around in Governor Reynold’s head as she considers her final decision. The Spencer Daily Reporter reports local legislators believe Reynolds is likely to sign the bill into law. This also aligns with talk we heard among industry types at the recent Betting on Sports America conference in NYC. There, it seemed confidence was high Iowa would have legal sports betting shortly.

Major gaming operators obviously share the same sentiment. William Hill, for example, has already signed a deal with Prairie Meadows to serve as the property’s exclusive sports betting partner.