Statehouse leaders at the Iowa Capitol are expecting some in-depth discussions about legalizing sports betting at this upcoming legislative session. But, will these discussions be fruitful or will Iowa go another year without allowing state residents to place sports bets?
Between 1992 and May 2018, it was illegal to bet on sports outside of Nevada and a handful of places that didn’t even have sportsbooks. In May, the Supreme Court overturned PASPA, the federal ban on sports gambling. This left it up to all of the states to set their own sports betting laws and regulations.
Iowa’s new legislative session starts on January 14, and lawmakers are anticipating a potentially heated debate over sports betting. Democratic Senator Jeff Danielson wants to introduce a bill that will legalize sports betting as well as fantasy sports. As of now, there isn’t much more information available about this bill.
During the last session, lawmakers introduced legislation that was suggested by the Iowa Gaming Commission, the body that represents Iowa casinos. The bill would have legalized betting on both college and pro sports both online and inside the state’s casinos. The Racing and Gaming Commission would have regulated the activity.
Under that bill, licensing would cost $25,000 and a tax of 17 percent (the gaming association suggested 6.75 percent tax). The bill did not pass, mostly because legislators wanted to wait for the Supreme Court to announce its decision.
Advocates say that people already illegally bet on sports, so why not legalize, regulate, and tax the activity? Every year, Americans spend $150 billion on sports wagers. To give an idea of the scale of illegal betting, out of the $4.7 billion wagered on Super Bowl 2017, 97 percent of those bets were illegal.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny), who is a former Iowa State University football player, says that now the Supreme Court has overturned PASPA, it’s time to think about legalizing sports gambling:
“I think society has changed in the last 15 years since I played. I think there’s a lot more people in the sports betting world. You turn on ESPN or any talk radio, they’re talking about spreads every day. I think that it’s happening right now. There are illegal bookies all over this state and all over this country. There are off-shore accounts that are taking bets every day. So the possibility of corruption happening is already there. So the question we have to answer is, is it better for us to take control of that, regulate it, keep a better eye on it and take it out of the black market.”
There are several issues lawmakers will have to discuss, besides whether they should legalize sports gambling. These issues include:
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