Legalized sports betting passes Iowa Senate

Bill allowing pro and college sports wagering heads to House

Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport
Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport

DES MOINES — Betting on professional and collegiate sports would be legal in Iowa under a bill passed Wednesday by the Iowa Senate.

The proposal next heads to the Iowa House, where it could be debated soon, a key leader said.

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting if they choose. Iowa lawmakers have been considering a proposal during this year’s legislative session.

Wednesday, it moved one step closer to becoming law when it passed the Senate 31-18.

But it was not a typical party-line vote. In the end, 19 Republican and 12 Democratic senators voted for it and 12 Republicans and six Democrats voted against it.

There was no public debate on the proposal before the vote, which also is unusual. The only lawmaker to speak about the bill Wednesday on the Senate floor was its manager, Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport.

“I believe what we’re doing in this bill is the right thing to do,” Smith said. “Our task was to establish the proper regulatory framework that promotes a safe, secure and reliable entity. And I believe we have accomplished that goal.”

Supporters of the proposal to legalize sports betting have argued the activity already is taking place illegally, and the state would be better off regulating and taxing it.

“Sports wagering will no longer be acceptable in the dark. The sun is shining and Iowans will be able to participate legally and responsibly,” Smith said.


The proposal, Senate File 617, would legalize sports betting in the state on professional and college athletics, including the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones.

The proposal would have sports betting take place in Iowa’s state-regulated casinos or online. The activity would be overseen by the state commission that regulates greyhound and horse racing.

Casinos that host sports betting would pay annual fees, and revenue from sports betting would be taxed at 6.75 percent.

The bill also legalizes betting on daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. A late change to the bill, however, excluded daily fantasy sports betting on college athletics.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who chairs the House committee through which the bill already passed, said leaders in the two chambers worked together on the bill. That indicates there is sufficient support to pass it out of the full House and send it to Gov. Kim Reynolds for her approval or veto.

The governor’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening after passage of the bill in the Senate.

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