Government

'Good shot' at legalized sports betting in Iowa getting a Yes vote this year, lawmaker says

Kaufmann says court ruling, groundwork pave way for legalization

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann

R-Wilton
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann R-Wilton

JOHNSTON — Sports betting has “a very good shot” of being legalized in Iowa this year, a key state lawmaker says.

An unsuccessful attempt last year to pass legislation that would legalize sports betting in Iowa has created a strong foundation and momentum for this year’s effort, said Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton who chairs the committee that would first consider such a proposal.

Kaufmann said he expects to schedule the first hearing on sports betting legislation for the first week in February.

A May 2018 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize betting on sporting events. Previously, sports betting was legal only in Nevada, with a few rare exceptions. Some states have already have legalized sports betting.

Though gambling expansion in Iowa often takes years to generate enough support to pass the Iowa Legislature, Kaufmann said the Supreme Court ruling and groundwork laid last year have smoothed the way.

“I think the consensus has been building for years,” Kaufmann said Thursday during the taping of this weekend’s “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.

“I think one of the things that was preventing a bill from becoming law in years past was the fact that we knew that the Supreme Court ruling might come down, and we didn’t want to pre-empt them and do something that would then be nullified by a potential ruling,” he said.

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“The groundwork that was laid these last several years, I think, gives us a very good shot of getting this done this session.”

Kaufmann said he will hold multiple subcommittee and committee hearings on the legislation in order to give it a full airing before the public and stakeholders.

There will be disagreements among those stakeholders that must be taken into consideration as the legislation is drafted.

Professional sports leagues, for example, want a percentage of revenues as an “integrity fee” to insure themselves against any harmful effects of gambling on their games.

Casinos want to house sports betting in their facilities and online through mobile applications.

In some states, the lottery system has wanted to offer sports betting at places where lottery games are sold.

Also, legislators will have to decide at what rate to tax sports-betting revenue and where the new money should be applied in the state budget.

Solving those legislative riddles will be crucial to the bill’s success, a state gambling law expert said.

“When the legislation is put together for sports betting, it does need to be comprehensive,” said Keith Miller, a Drake University Law School professor and expert on sports gambling. “It can’t be patchwork. Those agreements, those compromises, have to be made at the beginning rather than trying to make them later.”

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