JOHNSTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to regulate sports betting, but Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell sees no reason for Iowa to the first to try and capture the anticipated jackpot.
“I don’t see why Iowa needs to feel we have to rush into all of a sudden starting sports betting because some states are going to do it,” Hubbell said Friday during taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press.”
Legislation to allow the state to capture part of the proceeds from legal sports betting in Iowa was debated in the Legislature this spring but never got an up-or-down vote on the House or Senate floor.
Gaming interests say they will make a push again next year to create a sports betting system operated by state-licensed casinos.
Hubbell, however, thinks the state might be better to hedge its bets.
“Why don’t we just wait?” he said. “Why don’t we wait and just see what states are doing it right, which states aren’t and then we can come in a year or two afterward and do it the right way. But let’s do it based upon experience rather than just a knee-jerk reaction.”
Hubbell didn’t offer an opinion whether sports betting should be operated by the Iowa Lottery or overseen by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
He does think the commission needs to take a big-picture look at gaming in Iowa to determine if more casino licenses should be granted.
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So far, he said, the commission has shown a “clear bias” toward protecting existing casinos, “which makes some sense, but there are also other parts of our state that make good arguments for wanting to have some casinos in their neighborhoods.”
Cedar Rapids interests have twice sought a casino license only to be rejected by the gaming commission. Hubbell didn’t promise more licenses but didn’t reject the idea.
Rather than look at whether a license should be granted in a particular community, Hubbell would like the commission to consider whether there should be more casinos or should existing casinos be protected to ensure they remain profitable — for their owners and the state.
“I think the point is we need to really think about how we want to manage that industry,” he said. “Is it really going to be harmful if we have more? Where should they be? And what is the motivation for the Racing and Gaming Commission? What is the best way to manage that industry in our state?”
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