Sports

Legal sports betting in Iowa would be game changer

We're 1 signature from 19 casinos running sportsbooks

People make Super Bowl bets at the FanDuel sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J. on 2.3.19. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
People make Super Bowl bets at the FanDuel sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J. on 2.3.19. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Things I used to think were impossible that happened:

Big Ten universities in Nebraska and New Jersey. Iowa (perhaps) having two of its tight ends taken in the first round of an NFL draft. Carrying all my music in my phone. Carrying my phone in my pocket.

Add “legal sports betting in Iowa.” And, to take it a step further, “sports betting in Iowa on your phone, next to the app for your music, in your pocket.”

But here we are, a signature from Gov. Kim Reynolds to authorizing the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to establish rules for betting on professional, collegiate and international sporting events, and legalizes fantasy sports contest and internet fantasy sports betting. Revenue would be taxed at 6.75 percent.

That commission regulates Iowa’s 19 state-licensed casinos. Once the rules are set up by the commission, sports bets can be placed at those casinos or on mobile applications they establish.

That is, unless Reynolds goes against the 67 state representatives who voted Monday for the proposal, Senate File 617. If she signs the bill, you will be able to bet on college and pro football and other sports this year at the state’s casinos or on their affiliated mobile apps.

“All we’re doing is taking bets and getting a little bit of juice out of it,” said Dan Franz, the general manager at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, the nearest casino to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. “It’s not the end of the world from a revenue standpoint.

“It’s not going to be a (Las Vegas) sportsbook with hundreds of seats. It’ll be Iowa style.”

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Assuming Reynolds signs the bill, Riverside and the other Iowa casinos will partner with a gaming company. Prairie Meadows in Altoona, for instance, is partnered with William Hill U.S., and will go big, sportsbook-wise. It will have an 8,600-square foot sportsbook on the fourth floor of its property.

Riverside had a major renovation recently that includes a spot where it would have its sportsbook. Should customers want to use the app, they would have to make a one-time visit to casinos to sign up. Then?

“After that they can bet sitting on their couches,” Franz said.

But, of course, it also gives the casinos like Riverside one more attraction to potential customers. It’s like a poker room. The poker itself isn’t a huge revenue source, but Riverside’s poker players gamble on the main casino floor, eat at the resort’s restaurants, play golf there, and so forth.

Franz said he expects the commission to be meticulous in its rules for sports betting, thus he thinks the rollout of sports betting in Iowa won’t be until August, a few weeks before the start of the college football season.

It presumably would give the casinos enough time for both their employees and customers to get comfortable with the addition to gaming in Iowa. Then comes September and football season, and the game will change in Iowa.

Point spreads obviously are nothing new to the media or the public, but now they’ll be hammered home. Sports-betting stories and talk will be more and more common in mainstream media.

For instance, did you know that of all the 353 Division I men’s basketball teams, Drake had the best record against the spread in 2018-19?

Well, according to Covers.com, the Bulldogs were 23-7-2 against the spreads posted by Nevada oddsmakers. Had you bet $11 on Drake in all 32 games (it takes $11 to win $10), you’d have won a total of $153.

Iowa State was 18-15-2 against the spread (ATS), Iowa 15-20 and Northern Iowa 13-18-1.

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In the 2018 college football season, Iowa was 9-4 on the playing field and 8-5 against the spread. Iowa State (8-5 in real football) was 6-7 ATS, as they call it.

It’s too soon for me to tell you to take the Houston Rockets and throw the 8 points against the Utah Jazz in their NBA playoff game Wednesday night. So I won’t, even though I think the Rockets will close out the series and run the Jazz out of the gym.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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