2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Governor Reynolds clears way for sports gambling in Iowa

Law legalizes online bets for first time in Iowa

A laws signed Monday by Gov. Kim Reynolds allows the state’s 19 licensed casinos to offer betting on professional and collegiate sports. College basketball is broadcast March 20 on a large video screen in the show lounge at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside. The casino has completed a roughly $11 million upgrade. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A laws signed Monday by Gov. Kim Reynolds allows the state’s 19 licensed casinos to offer betting on professional and collegiate sports. College basketball is broadcast March 20 on a large video screen in the show lounge at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside. The casino has completed a roughly $11 million upgrade. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds decided Monday that legalizing sports wagering in Iowa is a winner.

After getting input from Iowans she said were evenly split on the latest proposed gambling expansion, Reynolds decided to sign into law a measure allowing sports betting in state-regulated casinos and online.

Betting based at the 19 state-licensed casinos will be allowed on professional and college athletics — including the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones — and on daily fantasy sports websites like DraftKings and FanDuel when the law takes effect July 1.

Casinos would pay annual fees, revenue would be taxed and the gambling will be regulated by the state commission that oversees dog and horse racing.

“Gov. Reynolds believes that legalizing sports betting will bring this practice out of an unregulated black market,” Reynolds’ spokesman Pat Garrett said in an email. “This law will regulate, tax, and police sports betting in a safe and responsible way.”

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.

Some also see the move as a threat to the integrity of college athletics and an allure to vulnerable Iowans using online and electronic transactions that bring new features to the gambling environment.

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“I’ve had a lot of people reach out and they’re concerned about addiction to gambling and ... the impact this may have,” Reynolds told reporters earlier this month. “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.”

With the measure, Senate File 617, Iowa soon will join a small but growing number of states that have legalized sports wagering since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a ban.

The Iowa law, though, does not allow in-game bets — known commonly as proposition, or prop bets — on college athletics. Such bets usually involve small wagering amounts on things like whether the first free throw of a basketball game is successful or if a player scores a certain number of points.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission previously said it would immediately begin to develop rules for sports betting through casinos. Officials have said the rules likely will be implemented in July or August, before collegiate and professional football begins this fall.

The state stands to collect a 6.75 percent tax on the casinos’ sports-betting “hold,” which is the house’s share after bets have been settled. Betting will be restricted to adults age 21 and over.

Iowa’s new sports wagering is expected to draw bettors from neighboring states. The out-of-state bettors will be able to use an app on their mobile phones to place wagers. First, however, they would have to visit an Iowa casino in person to establish an account. The app would work only within state borders, so visitors would have to travel to Iowa to place the sports bets.

Reynolds also completed work Monday on several pieces of a $7.644 billion general fund budget for fiscal 2020, starting July 1. She signed into law House File 758, a $952,7 million education bill that includes a $12 million increase for regent universities and an extra $6 million for community colleges.

Also Monday, she signed Senate File 599 to create the framework for allowing farmers to grow hemp. The provision still needs federal approval.

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Industrial hemp is plant member of the cannabis family, but hemp contains only the slightest trace of marijuana’s psychoactive chemical. Its seeds and stalks have commercial uses.

Erin Murphy of The Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau and Dave Dreeszen of the Sioux City Journal contributed to this report.

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