2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Reynolds: Iowans split on legalizing sports betting

College basketball is broadcast on a large video screen in the show lounge at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside, Iowa, on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
College basketball is broadcast on a large video screen in the show lounge at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside, Iowa, on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowans are split on whether Gov. Kim Reynolds should sign or veto legislation sent to her desk that would legalize sports betting in Iowa, the governor told reporters Tuesday.

“It’s pretty equal right now, but I’m hearing a lot from both sides,” Reynolds said during a media availability at her Future Ready Iowa Summit that lasted less than eight minutes.

Before adjourning their 2019 session last weekend, lawmakers approved a proposal to legalize sports betting in state-regulated casinos and online. Betting would be allowed on professional and college athletics and on daily fantasy sports websites. Casinos would pay annual fees, revenue would be taxed, and the activity would be regulated by the state commission that oversees dog and horse racing.

Opponents generally have expressed concern with another gambling expansion, particularly to online, and the potential damage it could do to Iowans who are or could become addicted.

“I’ve had a lot of people reach out and they’re concerned about addiction to gambling and ... the impact this may have,” the governor said. “And then I have had a lot of other people that have indicated that it is happening, that it is going to continue to happen, and they think it is very important that we have some kind of oversight and through the rules process in working with the gaming association that they are able to put in parameters to limit when and who and monitor if we have somebody that’s maybe abusing or may potentially have a problem.”

Reynolds said she and her team will analyze that bill along with a number of other policy and budget measures sent to her desk before she passes final judgment on what bills to sign.

“I have 30 days. I don’t know if we’ll take the whole 30 days,” she told reporters. “They just left on Saturday so we’re just at the very beginning of the process.”

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The governor sidestepped questions about bills that would bar state money from being used to cover sex reassignment surgery for transgender Iowans on Medicaid; block Planned Parenthood from participating in state-funded sex education programs; change Iowa’s judicial nominating system by increasing the sway of the governor over who sits on the Iowa Supreme Court and appeals court; and limit the attorney general’s ability to file or participate in litigation that is national in scope.

Reynolds said all those issues await further scrutiny by her policy team. She did express disappointment that several issues she championed — including granting greater access to contraceptives and restoring voting rights to felons — did not make it to her desk and vowed to try again next year to win legislative approval.

“I’m going to continue to come back and fight for the contraceptive legislation that I put forward this year, so I’m not giving up on that,” the governor said. “I didn’t get everything I wanted. It’s not going to surprise you to know that I’m going to come back and I’m also going to be fighting for amending the constitution that gives felons the right to vote. So I’m going to work over the interim.”

Also, the governor expressed praise and appreciation for the job that Janet Phipps Burkhead has done as director of the state Department of Administrative Services after the Iowa Senate adjourned without confirming her reappointment. Asked if Phipps Burkhead might be given another assignment by the Reynolds-Gregg administration, the governor said, “We don’t know yet. I haven’t made a decision on what that looks like.”

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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