Legislators in Iowa were very busy this week as they analyzed and debated four different bills that targeted the legalization of sports betting. Surprisingly, not one of these bills will proceed through the legal process. Rather, lawmakers plan to use what they learned during the hours of debates they had about how to legalize and regulate sports gambling in a brand new bill that hasn’t been written as of yet.
Representatives and lobbyists from the casinos, horse racing industry, Iowa Lottery, and professional sports leagues all attended the hearings on Wednesday and Thursday to try to persuade lawmakers into agreeing that they each are the best choice to host a sports gambling system in the state of Iowa.
Senator Roby Smith (R-Davenport), who chairs the Senate State Government Committee, heard the four sports betting bills throughout the week and shared his thoughts on the plans moving forward:
“We’re being very transparent, having a slow process, making sure everybody has ample time to give their thoughts, pros and cons on these different plans.”
Senator Smith’s House equivalent, Representative Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton), agrees that what was heard this week during discussions should be all brought together to make new House and Senate bills to introduce within the next two weeks. Kaufmann declared that it’s his goal to have the final bill through the committee by the end of this month.
It won’t be an easy task, putting together a newly created bill that will bring together the vision that lawmakers have for sports betting in Iowa. According to Keith Miller, a Drake Law School professor who has recently co-authored a book on sports gambling and has spent the last 10 years of his life studying gambling, says it’s a good plan, but:
“Nobody scored a knockout punch. None of the proposals were so overwhelmingly persuasive that I thought to myself, ‘Boy, that is really going to be difficult to overcome.”
Furthermore, he said, not everyone will get everything they want, so there will be people who aren’t very happy with the solution.
Miller also indicated he’d be watching the final bill to make sure there is some dedicated funding source to help people with gambling addictions, which he did say he didn’t hear a lot about this past week. He’s especially concerned with young people and their risk for developing gambling problems and believes it’s not enough to just post billboards and radio ads that announce a number to dial for help with gambling disorders.
Smith and Kaufmann said they plan to keep the Senate and House bills as similar as they can. The commitment for a new bill gives hope to the casinos in Iowa as they’re looking forward to an additional revenue stream from sports betting. Talks between state leaders and casino reps shared the desire to see legalized sports betting in 2019. Right now, after the hearings, the state is still on track to accomplish this goal.
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