The Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino announced this week that it has partnered up with William Hill US to operate the sportsbook at the casino in the event that sports betting becomes legal in the state of Iowa.
Prairie Meadows is building a huge 8,600-square-foot sportsbook on the fourth floor of the casino, near the horse racing center. This is being done as part of a bigger renovation project. The sportsbook will have a video wall and a bar for patrons to enjoy.
The attention now shifts to whether or not Iowa’s legislature will legalize sports betting this year.
As of right now, sports betting is still illegal in Iowa. However, that hasn’t stopped Prairie Meadows from making plans, though. It’s the first of the state’s 19 casinos to come out with an announcement of a sports gambling partnership and plans for a sportsbook since the Supreme Court’s decision in May to overturn the federal ban on sports betting.
Prairie Meadows CEO, Gary Palmer, has come out and stated there’s an overwhelming amount of support and interest for legalized sports betting in Iowa. And, he’s not alone in these sentiments.
At least one lawmaker, Representative Bobby Kaufmann (Rep-Wilton), who chairs the House State Government Committee, agrees with Palmer and plans to introduce legislation to legalize sports betting.
The House State Government Committee will consider any sports betting legislation that is proposed in the Iowa House. Kaufmann, who will hold a subcommittee meeting on the subject by the end of this month, made the following comments about how his peers are siding on the topic:
“I’m not going to say it’s unanimous, but I’ve had a lot of (legislators) come to me favorable and not nearly as many coming to me unfavorable.”
Democrats want to be sure there are appropriate safeguards in place before they will support any legislation. They want to know where the revenue would go, and would like to see some of it go towards counselling for those with gambling problems.
Senator Liz Mathis, (Dem-Hiawatha) discussed the importance of preparing ahead of time for potential problems and having a sound plan for the revenue:
“Here’s how I kind of look at it: if it’s coming and it’s here and we have gaming in the state of Iowa, it’s better to get ahead of it and control some of the provisions of it and where the money is going to go and how the state of Iowa can benefit from it.”
Senator Representative Bruce Hunter said he will also support legislation as long as it meets certain conditions:
“We’ve got to make sure that it’s regulated properly, that we have enough safeguards in there, that some 14-year-old can’t go in there and all of a sudden use dad’s credit card and rack up a thousand dollars’ worth of betting on it.”
Republican Senator Roby Smith, who chairs the Senate State Government Committee, thinks that sports gambling could be legalized in 2019. He said they will take input from residents and lawmakers in the state and start the process for a bill.
The Iowa Gaming Association is in full support of any legislation that legalizes sports betting. Wes Ehrecke, president of the IGA, has publicly backed the talks of a bill and believes that Iowa should allow legal sports betting on professional and college sports.
With Prairie Meadows leading the charge for sports betting, it will be interesting to see how many other casinos follow suit. With that said, mounting pressure from the state’s casinos could help to push the legislation forward in order to legalize sports betting in 2019.
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