Sports

Question: Will Iowa fumble sports betting at kickoff?

Wagering on games will be legal here, but when and where?

A London sports-betting parlor (Reuters)
A London sports-betting parlor (Reuters)

So what does Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a federal law requiring states to ban gambling on sporting events mean for Iowa?

(Nevada was grandfathered in.)

Good question, Mike. Or an obvious one. Let’s go with “good.”

My immediate reaction is the state will screw things up with a lot of initial regulations that limit how profitable it should be and how satisfied customers will be, just as it did when casino gambling was legalized and debuted in Iowa in 1991.

At that time, casinos had to be on riverboats and you could only gamble once the boats were out on their excursions, not while they were dockside. As if people were dying to go on riverboat cruises that just happened to have slot machines.

If you spent a self-imposed betting limit while on the river, you had to wait for the cruise to come back to the dock before you could go on your not-so-merry way.

People were limited to betting losses of $200 per visit, and $5 per hand/wager. It wasn’t exactly the Las Vegas experience. The reality of the cash Iowa was leaving on the table, so to speak, eventually triumphed over supposed good intentions. Limits vanished, and so did those cruises.

So here comes sports wagering. How it will work once it gets legalized and established in Iowa is unknown. Or maybe the state and those licensed to operate sports books here will be too knowledgeable in 2018 to let that happen.

A bill in the Iowa Legislature proposed last January would place sports betting under the direction of the state’s casinos, and the activity would be regulated by the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission.

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Bettors could wager on professional and college athletics. Properties that wish to host sports betting would be required to pay a $25,000 license fee, and a tax of 8 percent on sports betting revenue would be applied.

Were this system in place today and you were in Cedar Rapids and wanted to put legally $20 on the Houston Rockets to cover the spread against Golden State Monday night, you’d have to drive at least 45 minutes one way to do so.

It’s one thing to make that the way of life when it comes to casinos. You just don’t place them everywhere, as Cedar Rapids has learned again and again.

But a sports-betting parlor can fit snugly in almost any commercial area.

I’ve been to England and Ireland, where sports wagering has long been legal. The UK, where sports betting has been legal since 1960, has 9,000 or so betting shops. They are accepted parts of the commercial landscape. You see them on street corners, in relatively small cities. You can bet on horse and dog races there as well as sporting events.

They’re unobtrusive. Frankly, they’re actually pretty dull on a midweek afternoon in which no sporting event of note is occurring.

But it’s a vice, if you will, that the governments of those nations oversee and profit from rather than letting that money go off in cyberspace or elsewhere.

This, like casino gambling before it and legalized marijuana use in the future, was inevitable. It won’t lead to the fall of civilization. No, we have far more dangerous forces out there doing an effective job of that.

By the way, I like the Rockets to beat the Warriors in Game 1 of their NBA series Monday night. But not nearly enough to drive 45 minutes each way to back that up with a wager.

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