Iowa Sports Betting Bill Clears House Committee With Amendments: Floor Vote is Next

Posted on: March 26, 2019, 02:02h. 

Last updated on: March 26, 2019, 02:02h.

An Iowa lawmaker who serves as the main sponsor of a sports betting bill told on Tuesday that the legislation is getting ready for a vote by the state House of Representatives.

Iowa state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) has sponsored a bill in the House of Representatives that would legalize sports betting and allow it in the state’s 22 casinos. The House Ways and Means Committee approved it last week. (Image: Quad-City Times)

“I’d like to see a floor vote no later than the middle of April,” state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) said.

The bill, which previously cleared the State Government Committee, passed the House Ways and Means Committee last Wednesday. The 16-7 margin, Kaufmann said, showed it received wide bipartisan support.

The panel, though, did include a couple of amendments.

Among the changes made to the bill were a ban on in-game betting on Iowa college teams, their opponents, and both teams’ players. Kaufmann said a lot of people expressed concern over student athletes, which led to the amendment.

In addition, the committee agreed to set aside 25 percent of the 6.75 percent tax on net receipts, so the state Department of Public Health can use those funds for gambling treatment programs.

While mobile applications will be available under the bill, bettors establishing sportsbook accounts before Jan. 1, 2021 will need to do so at the casino. Kaufmann said that provision creates a “level playing field” for all 22 casinos in the state.

Opera Ain’t Over

Kaufmann said the House will need a couple of weeks to sort through other amendments that either have been — or will be — filed against the bill.

Over the weekend, a lawmaker who voted yes on the bill in committee said she may change her mind if some concerns aren’t addressed.

In a Clinton Herald guest column, state Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton) questioned the low tax rate on sports betting. In particular, she said only sports betting giant Nevada matches the 6.75 percent rate in Kaufmann’s bill. She noted that the state taxes casino receipts at 22 percent.

She also raised concerns that gaming foundations, which award grants to community non-profits, would not get any money from sports betting. To make sure those foundations receive funding, Wolfe suggested adding a three percent mobile fee to bets placed online.

Note that I can completely avoid paying the (mobile convenience fee) by placing my sports bet in person at the casino, in which case I’ll probably also engage in some ‘regular’ casino gambling and maybe have a meal at a local restaurant and probably have a real good time so … that will be a win-win,” she wrote.

Wolfe’s amendment will likely get introduced on the floor, Kaufmann said. He said there will be discussions among the 100 House members on how to split funds among the counties with and without casinos.

Senate Considering Its Own Bill

In addition to Kaufmann’s bill, state Sen. Roby Smith (R-Davenport) also has a sports betting bill that’s making its way through the committee process in the Senate.

SSB 1168 offers similar language to Kaufmann’s amended bill, including the requirement to create an account in person through next year.

The General Assembly finishes its 2019 session on May 3.

Both Iowa and Illinois are in a position to be the first Midwestern states to approve sports betting. However, Kaufmann made it clear that he doesn’t see it as a race to get it done first.

“I’m just trying to get the best bill possible,” Kaufmann said. “We don’t have the budget mess that Illinois does.”