Iowa Sports Betting Gains Momentum; Three Bills Filed

Iowa is shaping up to join the list of states to seriously consider the issue of sports betting in 2019. Recent comments from prominent lawmakers combined with a flurry of bills being filed in the current legislative session build on attempts last year to legalize sports betting in the Hawkeye State.

State Representative Bobby Kaufmann set the tone last month when he told Iowa Public Television he believes the state has a “very good shot” at passing sports betting legislation this session. Here’s what he said during a taping of Iowa Press last month:

“I think the consensus has been building for years. I think one of the things that was preventing a bill from becoming law in years past was the fact that we knew that the Supreme Court ruling might come down and we didn’t want to preempt them and do something that would then be nullified by a potential ruling.”

He later added that groundwork laid by lawmakers “over these past several years” gives the state “a very good shot at getting this done this session.”

Having Kaufmann on board increases the likelihood of any sports betting bills advancing in Iowa this year. Kaufmann currently serves as Chair of the State Government Committee to go along with seats on the State Government, Ways & Means and Judiciary committees.

More importantly, Rep. Kaufmann isn’t alone in his desire to advance sports betting legislation. He also has the support of other lawmakers in Iowa, but as Rep. John Forbes said in an op-ed last week, the “devil is in the details.”

In his op-ed, Rep. Forbes said he is “generally supportive” of legalizing Iowa sports betting but wants to ensure the proper safeguards are put in place to keep bad actors out and that adequate funds are directed to gambling addiction programs. As far as caveats or demands go, that’s about as minimal as it gets.

His position on sports betting is also about as simple as it gets:

“But the fact is sports betting is already ingrained in American culture, so why not regulate it and impose certain safeguards?”

The idea of sports betting has some amount of bipartisan support already in Iowa but ironing out the details will still take some work. As State Senator Zach Wahls put it recently, “It’s not going to be about Democrat or Republican – it’s going to be about what concerns do you have as it pertains to your district.”

Iowa Casinos Support Sports Betting

Iowa’s existing gaming industry is also on board. For instance, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino is already in the process of building an 8,600 square-foot sportsbook after reaching an agreement with William Hill US last month in anticipation of Iowa eventually passing a legalization measure.

The Iowa Gaming Association (IGA), which represents the state’s 19 commercial casinos, has come out strongly in support of sports betting and has issued its own list of demands for any legislation.

Not surprisingly, the IGA believes the state’s casinos should be given exclusive rights to offer sports betting, both online and in-person. Other IGA demands include:

  • Regulation to be provided by the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission
  • Allow sports betting on all pro and college games
  • Minimum age of 21
  • Initial licensing fee of $1,000 due to casinos already having undergone extensive suitability investigations just to operate
  • A tax rate of 6.75%
  • Reject any league-proposed integrity fees
  • Reject regulation that forces operators to buy official data from the leagues
  • Prohibit the Iowa Lottery from offering sports betting
  • Prohibit sports betting at retail Lottery kiosks

Some of these demands have the potential to gum up the works in getting something passed, but every state that has passed sports betting legislation to date has had to deal with competing interests to some degree or another.

Three Iowa Sports Betting Bills Introduced Yesterday

Senator Roby Smith is also clearly on board with sports betting after introducing three bills just yesterday to legalize and regulate sports betting in Iowa. Senator Smith, who chairs the State Government Committee, has also stated he believes legalization can be done this year.

Meanwhile, Rep. Kaufmann has introduced three companion bills in the house. Some information is lacking in these early versions of Iowa’s latest sports betting bills, but we’ll cover the main points below.

Senate Study Bill 1079 / House Study Bill 103

SSB 1079 and HSB 103 are short bills that lack much detail other than authorizing the Iowa Lottery to conduct sports betting in-person and online.

  • Authorizes Iowa lottery to offer sports betting
  • May take wagers on pro and college games
  • Online and mobile betting permitted
  • Tasks Iowa Lottery board of directories to implement new rules as needed to manage sports betting

Senate Study Bill 1080 / House Study Bill 101

Key points from SSB 1080 and HSB 101:

  • Legalize sports betting at gambling boats, gambling structures and racetracks that are also licensed to sell alcohol
  • $1,000 sports betting license fee
  • Online/mobile betting permitted
  • Customers must register in-person before betting online (this provision appears to expire after Jan 1st, 2021)
  • Pro and college sports betting authorized
  • Minimum age of 21 to bet on sports
  • 75% tax on sports
  • Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission ordered to form regulations governing the industry
  • No mention of royalty fee or data mandate

Senate Study Bill 1081 / House Study Bill 102

SSB 1081 and HSB 102 seek to:

  • Legalize sports betting and daily fantasy sports
  • Authorize online and mobile betting
  • Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission to regulate wagering
  • Prohibit advertising from targeting minors or other vulnerable people
  • Allow each casino to partner with up to two sports wagering platforms
  • Interactive sports wagering platforms licensed for $10,000 with $5,000 annual renewal fee
  • Fantasy sports licenses to have $500 annual fee, plus regulatory fee to be determined by the Commission
  • Minimum age of 21 to bet on sports
  • Operators must rely on data provided by the leagues for managing in-play betting
  • Operators must pay a 0.25% royalty fee on total betting handle to the leagues
  • 5% tax on fantasy sports