Gambling in Iowa
Unlike most US states, gambling in Iowa is mostly a choice of individual counties rather than the state as a whole.
A law was passed in 1991 allowing the counties to decide whether they wanted to allow casinos. There are now 19 gambling facilities in operation in addition to riverboat and tribal casinos.
Horse racing is a popular pursuit in Iowa. Three racetracks are operating and they now also have slot machines. Pari-mutuel betting has been legal in the state since 1983.
The Iowa state lottery began in 1985 and residents can also buy tickets for interstate lotteries such as Mega Millions. Online gambling legalization has been a hot topic in recent years but has not received sufficient support because of the political influence of the state’s tribe.
Legal sports betting
The latest gambling expansion move in Iowa is for sports betting. Nine bills were under consideration in the state legislature at one point. Each of these bills had its own distinct attributes. Some would legalize both online and retail sports betting, while others were for the legalization only of retail sportsbooks.
With the legislative session due to end on May 3, there was plenty of time to consider these various bills.
The chosen one
One sports betting legalization bill got through the Iowa House by a 67-32 vote. This means that it is almost inevitable that sportsbooks will be open in Iowa during the very near future.
The bill would allow betting on both pro and college events and would allow people to use daily fantasy sports platforms.
Some who supported the bill believed that they had no other option because it allows regulation of the sports betting sector rather than allowing the illegal market to continue growing.
That was the view of Representative Bobby Kaufmann, the floor manager for the bill. He said: “Right now, there is a rampant black market going on where tens of millions of Americans are betting on sports and fantasy and they don’t currently have the legal right to do so. I believe this is a problem that needs [to be] addressed. Sticking our head in the sand is not an option.”
The Senate previously approved the bill by a 31-8 vote. To become law, it needs the signature of Governor Kim Reynolds, who has yet to comment on it.
Details of the bill
Under this bill, a person has to be at least 21 years old to place a sports bet. Both offline and online sports betting will be allowed and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission will be in charge of regulating and creating the framework for the sector.
No betting would be allowed on high school events or minor league baseball. In-game wagers individual players from a state university or college would also be prohibited. While fantasy sports are now legal, betting on college sports will not be permitted until May 2020.
The tax rate for sports betting will be a very competitive 6.75% and license fees will be charged. It is estimated that the state could earn between $1.8m (£1.4m) and $3.5m (£2.7m) a year from sports betting.
Industry experts believe that sportsbooks could be open by July if the governor signs the bill soon.