Iowa Sports Betting Bill Moves to House Committee for Thursday Vote

Posted on: February 27, 2019, 01:05h. 

Last updated on: February 27, 2019, 01:07h.

An Iowa sports betting bill is now making its way through the General Assembly and faces a key vote on Thursday.

Iowa State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann has sponsored a bill to legalize sports betting. The Republican lawmaker and chair of the House State Government Committee said he wants to help bring the gambling on sports “out of the shadows.” (Image: Joyce Russell/IPR)

HSB 198 is scheduled to go before the House State Government Committee, and the bill’s sponsor expects it will pass. State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-73rd Dist.), who also chairs the committee, told on Wednesday he believes 16 or 17 of the panel’s members will vote in favor of the bill.

Kaufmann’s bill is one of two currently in the state legislature, with the other being discussed in the state Senate. Both bills would allow the state’s 22 casinos to offer sports betting, but the House bill would allow for immediate development  of apps.

Kaufmann said he expects lawmakers to reach a compromise between the two bills and that sports betting would become legal in Iowa this year.

Windfall Not Expected

Under the bill, the state would charge $15,000 annually for casinos to receive a license for sports betting. The state would then levy a 6.75 percent tax on the net receipts from each sportsbook. Three casinos run by tribal communities would be exempt from the tax.

Once sports betting becomes fully operational, Kaufmann said he believes it would generate between $5 million and $10 million dollars in state revenue annually.

However, that’s not the driving force for the lawmaker, who adds he does not think sports betting will be a “cash cow.” Instead, Kaufmann wants to provide a regulatory framework for an activity that’s currently happening anyway, and he stated that allowing casinos to take bets on sporting events would make it less likely for residents to go to illegal bookies.

“The whole point of this bill is to bring people out of the shadows,” Kaufmann said.

Nonetheless, some legislators have expressed concerns about expanding gambling options. State Rep. Mark Smith told the Marshalltown Times-Republican that he remains undecided on any bill for now.

“I want us to be very careful with it,” the Democratic lawmaker and substance abuse social worker said. “Gambling is the only non-substance addiction recognized by the American Psychological Association as a mental illness. My concern always is that we have proper services available for people who become addicted to gambling.”

Prairie Meadows Partnership with William Hill

While neither Kaufmann’s bill or the Senate bill have passed either chamber yet, some venues in Iowa are already starting to plan for the possibility.

Last month, Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino announced a partnership with William Hill to develop an 8,600-square-foot sports book on the fourth floor of the casino. The book would feature a bar and a video wall to show sporting events and post live odds.

Derron Heldt, Prairie Meadows vice president of racing, told that workers completed the project a few weeks ago and it’s already open for racing simulcasts.

Heldt said that at least some of the Prairie Meadows sports betting revenue could go toward bolstering the track’s purses, although thoroughbreds run for 67 days beginning in May, and quarterhorses for 26 days, which end in October.

“It depends on what the final [legislative] bill looks like,” he said.

But if the state legislature passes a sports betting bill, and it’s signed by the governor, the track and William Hill will be ready to take wagers once the Iowa’s racing and gaming commission has everything in place.

“We’re up and ready,” Heldt said.