Government

Commission works to set rules on Iowa sports betting

Timeline calls for program to be in place by college football season

Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission administrator Brian Ohorilko talks during a meeting of the commission in November 2017 at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque. Ohorilko said with the recent legalization of sports betting in Iowa, the commission now is working on drafting rules to regulate it. (The Gazette)
Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission administrator Brian Ohorilko talks during a meeting of the commission in November 2017 at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque. Ohorilko said with the recent legalization of sports betting in Iowa, the commission now is working on drafting rules to regulate it. (The Gazette)

Now that Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed Senate File 617 into law legalizing wagering on professional, college, international and fantasy sports, it falls to the state Racing and Gaming Commission to set the rules regulating the activities. Initially, the activity open to Iowans 21 or older will require a visit to any of Iowa’s 19 state-licensed casinos to register for online wagering that will be taxed at a 6.75 percent rate. Here are some responses from commission administrator Brian Ohorilko about what Iowans can expect:

Q: Now that the sports-wagering has been signed into law, what are the next steps for the commission?

A: The commission will need to draft rules for sports wagering and for fantasy sports. That process is taking place now and will continue through the month of June with the goal of having a public hearing in July. The commission will need to hold a special meeting to adopt the rules. The legislation contemplates emergency rulemaking and so we would anticipate at least at this point that’s what will happen.

Q: What is the timeline?

A: If the timeline holds and rules can be drafted, reviewed and hold a public hearing by July, I think it’s reasonable to expect that the rules could be adopted as early as August. Companies will be licensed when those rules are ready. The casinos all have been backgrounded, so they are suitable for a sports-wagering license. But anyone that they would partner with to conduct mobile wagering of sports would need to be vetted and go through a criminal background check. Everyone that is licensed to conduct the advance deposit sports wagering will need to go through the background process and obtain a license. So it will be important for the casinos to select partners that are suitable and then the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the commission will be conducting backgrounds on those applicants. The best case would be early August. I think at least initially that’s the goal. There are a lot of things that need to fall into place, but it’s reasonable to expect that if those things do fall into place that the wagers would be able to be accepted prior to college football season.

Q: Have you studied what other states have done in terms of regulating sports wagering?

A: We have. The commission has spent many, many hours reviewing regulations in other jurisdictions, researching various topics related to sports wagering. It is something the commission is prepared and equipped. It’s just a matter of doing the work and getting things drafted so wagers can be accepted.

Q: Any states you are modeling Iowa rules and regulations after?

A: We’re using a number of states. The commission has looked at the regulations in New Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi; we’ve looked at technical standards from Gaming Laboratories Inc. and other trade publications from the industry related to sports. There is a lot of material available, and we’re using all of it to try to come up with the best product that we can.

Q: Can you walk through the process of setting up a sports wagering account?

A: For the mobile accounts through Jan. 1, 2021, an individual will need to go to a casino to prove their identity and verification (age, residency, etc.) Once registered, those customers can then access their accounts remotely and wagers can be accepted remotely. It will vary by casino, but the statute would permit those individuals on site or they also could fund their accounts remotely through the account that they’ve established by registering in person. Limits can be established by the patrons as to what they wager. There will also be the brick-and-mortar option as well, where a person can go into a casino and place a wager in a similar fashion to what one could do in Nevada at this point in time.

Q: Iowa law prohibits gambling with credit, correct?

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A: We’re still looking whether or not that was included as part of the sports-wagering bill. I can tell you that I don’t believe that any of the operators are anticipating allowing credit at this point in time. It’s unclear to me whether that was something that was prohibited in the statute in the same way that credit cards are prohibited in casino gambling. We need to look at the statute more closely and consult with the Attorney General’s Office on that question. If it is something that is not prohibited, then it will be something that is discussed by the commission.

Q: Regardless of that outcome, a person could establish a line of credit independent of their wagering account, deposit those proceeds into their authorized wagering account and then place bets using those funds, correct?

A: Yes.

Q: Who would be prohibited from placing sports bets: coaches, participants, etc.?

A: One of the requirements of the casino operators and the advance-deposit sports wagering companies are to adopt controls and procedures to prevent coaches, players and officials from wagering on sports. That’s something that will be part of the integrity monitoring that will need to take place by the casinos.

Q: When a person wins, how much of their wager can they expect to get back?

A: The players will get 100 percent of the posted winning but that will vary by the type of wager that is placed. Those percentages vary on the type of bet. The odds will be posted and the players will know what they will earn prior to placing a bet. That is something that will need to take place in a regulated environment.

Q: Will sports betting include video games, such as Fortnite?

A: No, we do not believe the statute includes that.

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

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