Nine Bills in Iowa to Legalize Sports Betting

Iowa state flag

30-second summary:

  • Iowa allows individual counties to decide if they want gambling facilities or not
  • Nine sports betting bills are under consideration by the Iowa legislature
  • Senate Study Bill 1168 calls for legal online sports betting
  • One of the bills calls for integrity fees for the major sports leagues

Gambling in Iowa

The status of gambling in Iowa is decided largely by the state’s counties, unlike most other states where gambling is legislated on a state level.

Iowa passed a law in 1991 law that gave counties the ability to decide for themselves if they wanted casinos to be built in their area. Currently, there are 19 such facilities in the state in addition to tribal and riverboat casinos.

Racing is also a popular pursuit in the state. Iowa has three racetracks in operation, all of which have slot machines to help keep the revenues up as the popularity of racing declines. Pari-mutuel race betting for has been legal since 1983, with regular simulcast betting being legal since 1989.

The state lottery has been in operation since 1985 and interstate lottery games are also legal. There have been numerous attempts in recent years to legalize online gambling in the state. However, tribal interests hold a lot of political sway and have been against such a move.

New online sports betting bills

New bills to legalize online sports betting are currently under consideration in Iowa. Chair of Iowa’s Committee on State Government, Senator Roby Smith, is introducing Senate Study Bill 1168. This would legalize sports betting at the casinos, gambling facilities and racetracks in Iowa.

The bill would also make mobile and online sports betting legal. However, bettors would need to initially register their online accounts in person at one of the respective facilities. The bill puts an age requirement in place, meaning only those 21 years old or older could place a sports bet.

Under this bill, daily fantasy sports would also become legal. There has been no indication as to what the license fee could be or how long these licenses would be in place for. The bill does state that licenses to offer daily fantasy sports would be in date for three years before needing renewal.

The bill contains a clause on taxing the net receipts on sports betting, but does not suggest a specific tax rate. There are no clauses for integrity fees for the major sports leagues. Many states are currently considering such a provision, but none to date have actually done so.

The Iowa Racing and Commission would regulate and have oversight of sports betting. The bill would create a fund for regulatory activities.

Eight other sports betting bills are still actively passing through the state legislature. The current legislative session does not end until May 3, 2019, leaving plenty of time for the passage of a bill.

Proposals in other bills

There are a number of meetings in the schedule to consider the various sports betting bills. The hope is that a unified approach can be taken on the issue. Lawmakers will likely combine the best aspects of the various bills into one piece of legislation.

One of the bills provides for integrity fees for the major sports betting leagues. The main leagues that are lobbying for the introduction of integrity fees are Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), as well as the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Another of the bills looks to curtail the offering of sports betting online to convenience stores and supermarkets. Most of them agree that online sports betting should be allowed.