DES MOINES, Iowa — Legislators and lobbyists who support expanding gambling to include sports betting in Iowa said a 6-3 ruling from the high court is all they needed to advance a sports betting bill in the 2019 legislative session.
Earlier this year, Iowa lawmakers had trouble moving a bill forward that would have legalized sports betting.
“Legislators thought, ‘I don’t want to go home and have to defend a vote to expand gambling when we don’t even know for sure whether we can do it.’ Now that’s out of the way, with the Supreme Court opinion, and they would be able to say to their constituents, ‘this is something that’s going on.’ A lot of people want to do it, and it’s better to have it regulated and taxed,” said Keith Miller, a law professor at Drake University.
Representative Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, said sports betting in Iowa would go through the casinos and have both in-person and online options that will be taxed to benefit the state.
“So if you believe that Iowa should have that infrastructure fund and use that for tax revenue in the future, you have to have a new mechanism. This is a way to step forward and say, ‘hey, the world is going online, let’s have some safeguards in place for them to play online,'” Highfill said.
This is how the Iowa Gaming Association said it would work:
“Come in and get registered and prove that you’re 21. Establish an account. Get a secure password for a web portal to then be able to place bets online, still back in that bar with your friends if that’s what you want to do, or come into the casino to do that,” Iowa Gaming Association President Wes Ehrecke said.
Miller said it will be more appealing to some people if it’s legal, but those who are established on the illegal side won’t like how it’s taxed.
“People go and place bets. The winning bets are paid off by the sports book, by the casino. What remains, that amount of money is what is taxed. So the question is what tax rate should we apply to the money that the sports book win? Not the total amount that was bet,” Miller said.
Miller said cracking down on illegal sports betting was not a priority before, but if it does become legal there is a chance it could move up on the priority list so the state doesn’t lose out on that tax money.
Ehrecke said they are confident the bill will pass with bipartisan support in the 2019 legislative session.