SPORTS

Casinos big winners in sports betting bills Neither House nor Senate see role for Iowa Lottery

Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport
Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport

By Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — Sports betting would be legalized in Iowa and hosted by the state’s 19 casinos — with an online option as well — under a legislative proposal unveiled Wednesday.

The House measure, scheduled to have its first hearing Thursday before a subcommittee, is similar but not identical to a proposal making its way through the Senate.

What the two proposals have in common:

l Betting on professional and college sporting events would be legal in Iowa.

l Betting on daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel also would be legal.

l Casinos would be eligible to apply for licenses to host sports betting on-site and online.

l The betting activity would be regulated by the state’s racing and gaming commission.

l Gambling addiction would be addressed with program funding and allowing participants to set limits on their gambling.

What’s different about the proposals:

l The House version establishes a tax of 6.75 percent on gaming revenue. The Senate has not yet established a tax rate.

l The Senate version requires online gamblers in the first 18 months under the new law to create their new account at a casino. After that, gamblers could start online. The House bill has no such requirement.

Each proposal is scheduled for a hearing Thursday afternoon at the Iowa Capitol.

What’s not in the bills also is important.

Some of the professional sports leagues had asked for an “integrity” fee to protect the leagues against what they say are additional risks brought by legalized gambling on their games; a requirement that casinos purchase data that resolves bets from the leagues; and a voice in determining what kinds of in-game bets — known as proposition or “prop” bets — would be allowed.

None of those were included in either bill.

The Iowa Lottery had requested the ability to provide sports betting where lottery tickets already are sold. That’s not included in either bill.

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“We feel good about the process. It’s been an open, transparent process. We’ve taken input from colleagues, constituents, stakeholders,” said Roby Smith, a Republican senator from Davenport who chairs the state government committee through which the Senate bill would pass. “We’re working on a bill. It’s a work in progress to come up with the best possible bill for all Iowa. And we still have many more steps to go in the process.”

Wes Ehrecke, president and chief executive of the Iowa Gaming Association, which represents the state’s casinos, was optimistic. He thinks the differences between the bills can be resolved.

“We feel it’s an ideal solution to have competitive and robust sports betting legalized here in Iowa via the casinos who have a long-standing history (with) not only the expertise and the experience but the ability to operate in a highly compliant, highly regulated environment,” Ehrecke said.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission twice has rejected issuing a casino license for Cedar Rapids. The city now is looking to develop about 8 acres of land near downtown that it had hoped would become a casino complex.

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