DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowans may soon be able to cash in on the real world success of professional and college athletes on their virtual fantasy teams. A state bill would lift restrictions on cash prize fantasy sports.
The list of fantasy sports websites that pay out cash prizes is almost as endless as the amount of money that the industry generates.
“I thought this is how I was going to make my college money, but I figured out that when I tried to put in my credit card information, it wouldn’t allow it because I was from Iowa,” said Ben Weber.
People like Weber may soon see a piece of the billion-dollar fantasy sports industry if Iowa Rep. Jake Highfill’s bill passes.
The bill is four years in the making and would allow Iowans to play fantasy football, baseball, golf and any other pro or college fantasy sport for money.
“The original bill was more directed with season-long play,” Highfill said. “Now we’re directed to also daily play as well.”
Those against legalizing fantasy sports call it a form of gambling, particularly daily fantasy sports that can provide payouts as soon as that day or week. But fantasy football player Bret Lentz says he doesn’t buy that argument.
“I don’t think of it as your typical gambling where you don’t have a lot of control where you’re playing against the house or something. It’s really up to you who you pick and how much research you can put into it,” Lentz said.
Part of the bill would regulate fantasy sports under the racing and gaming commission and any winnings would be taxed so the revenue would go towards Iowa infrastructure.
“It does a little bit of natural resource work. Say you have a pond or shallow water restoration, stuff like that. That’s what the bill is for. ”
It’s a move fantasy player Chris Mead believes is mostly for show.
“I think lottery funds going to the community is largely a PR piece. Yes they do get some funds, but you can also get taxes from corporate entities as well as individuals that are cashing the winnings,” Mead said. “I think it’s potentially just a way to spin it to be able to put it under government purview, which I don’t think it belongs.”
Regardless how you view fantasy sports, Highfill, who doesn’t play fantasy himself, says the government should stay out of the choice.
“If you don’t want to do it, you’re an adult and can make adult decisions I don’t think the government should be telling you that you can’t play fantasy sports if you want to play,” Highfill said.
Under the bill, minors would be barred from playing for money, and so would those who could have an impact on the game such as referees.