Government

Casinos, state progressing toward Iowa sports betting

It's likely people can place football bets this fall

Gamblers place bets at Monmouth Park Sports Book in Oceanport, N.J., on June 14, 2018, the first day of legal sports betting in New Jersey. Iowa gaming regulators and casino officials expect rules will be in place soon and that legal sports betting can begin in Iowa with this fall’s football season. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
Gamblers place bets at Monmouth Park Sports Book in Oceanport, N.J., on June 14, 2018, the first day of legal sports betting in New Jersey. Iowa gaming regulators and casino officials expect rules will be in place soon and that legal sports betting can begin in Iowa with this fall’s football season. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
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DES MOINES — It appears a safe bet that Iowans will be able to wager on college and professional football games when the seasons kick off this fall.

Casinos and state regulators are forging ahead with preparations for the state’s new sports gambling law.

Casinos are making deals with third-party companies to help them conduct sports betting and planning renovations, while state regulators are putting the finishing touches on rules and regulations for the new industry.

Those rules and regulations could be approved at the state gaming oversight commission’s meeting at the end of the month.

If the rules are approved, Iowans could be making bets by mid-August, the commission’s director said.

“I think we are close,” said Brian Ohorilko, administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

The state earlier this year legalized wagering on professional and college sports and daily fantasy sports websites.

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The new law went into effect July 1 but will not be implemented until the commission completes its rule making.

Recent commission meetings have been filled with approvals for casino contracts and public hearings on the rules and regulations.

The college football season begins Aug. 24, with most teams’ seasons starting the following weekend. The University of Iowa Hawkeyes play Miami of Ohio on Aug. 31, the same day Iowa State kicks off its season against the University of Northern Iowa.

The professional football season begins Sept. 5 with a game between two of Iowa’s most popular NFL teams, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

Most casinos will be ready to offer sports betting when the football season kicks off, a top statewide casino official said.

“I am confident they’ll either be ready or very close to being ready by that time,” said Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association, which represents the state’s gaming industry.

Christopher Rants, an Iowa lobbyist who has been representing the daily fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel, said the companies are eager “to offer those games and contests in Iowa.”

All parties involved were complimentary of the others involved in the process leading to legal sports betting in Iowa.

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Ohorilko and the gaming representatives praised state lawmakers for what they described as thoughtful and thorough legislation.

Ehrecke extolled the legislation as a model for other states considering the same move.

And industry officials complimented the state gaming commission for its handling of the rule-making process.

“We’re looking forward to the final set of rules, but look, racing and gaming (commission) has been a good regulator to work with and Iowa put together a good bill,” Rants said.

The next commission meeting, at which the final rules likely will be presented for approval and an official start day could be set, is scheduled for July 30 in West Des Moines.

• Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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