Legal sports betting in Iowa may be advancing to the House floor very soon.
On Monday a subcommittee voted 4-1 on H 648 and according to the bill’s author, Representative Bobby Kaufmann, the bill will be amended and passed on Wednesday in the full committee.
Kaufmann told Legal Sports Report that he expects the sports betting bill will be passed in the House, thanks to the newfound bipartisan support, during the first week in April.
“I think the momentum is on our side,” said Kaufmann. “I know it’s a priority among leadership of both chambers to get this done. I’m shepherding it through and making the changes I have to make. I’m very confident in getting this done and think we have the wind at our backs.”
Kaufmann expects a number of amendments to be made to his bill H 648 on Wednesday, including:
- The banning of in-game bets on Iowa collegiate players.
- The earmarking of 0.25 percent of the 6.75 percent in state taxes on gross revenue to go to problem gambling.
- Adding in-person registration for mobile accounts during the first 18 months.
Of all of those amendments, the biggest one would be the change from remote to in-person registration. Rhode Island is also turning to in-person registration over remote, something that many believe will cause revenue to be limited as it will cause fewer residents to switch over from the black market sportsbooks that they may already be betting on.
New Jersey, which offers remote registration for mobile accounts has seen nearly 80% of its handle coming from mobile platforms. Pennsylvania, which is expected to begin online sports wagering this summer, is also allowing for remote sign-up for mobile and online accounts.
Kaufmann indicated the the ban on in-game betting on local college players, as well as the earmarking of revenue for problem gambling, are amendments that he is supporting in order to gain support for legal sports betting on the Democratic side.
“The bottom line is this thing isn’t passing on the House floor without Democrat votes, so we have to make concessions and we’re doing that,” Kaufmann said.
The companion bill in the Senate is coming from Senator Roby Smith.
“I communicate regularly with Sen. Smith, we work well together and are getting things as close as possible,” said Kaufmann. “At the committee level, we might not be on the same page, but hopefully we’ll get them practically identical on the floor.”
The bill would allow bettors to wager on sporting events at 19 state-regulated casinos, including three near the Nebraska border in Council Bluffs. As Nebraska doesn’t have any form of legal sports betting in their state, the idea of Nebraska residents being able to make a short trip across the border to place bets in Iowa is certainly a chance for Iowa to attract a lot of out-of-state revenue.
With no serious attempt to legalize sports betting in Nebraska, which has a constitutional ban on most forms of gambling in the state (outside of horse racing, keno and the state lottery), Iowa can benefit financially from Nebraska’s lack of action, especially with Omaha only being a 10-minute drive from Council Bluffs.
Mike Newlin, general manager of Horsemen’s Park in Ralston Nebraska said that sports betting in Iowa would be another blow to Nebraska’s declining horse racing industry.
“It will be devastating,” Newlin said. “Iowa is progressive. They have capitalized on the fact that Nebraska doesn’t have gambling. And they’ve reaped the rewards.”
Casino revenue in Iowa amounted to around $1.44 billion in 2017. Nebraska residents have been a big part of that revenue of the years. A 2013 study estimated that residents of Nebraska traveled over to Iowa and spend about $327 million at their gambling establishments.
Under the bill, sports betting would only be allowed at casinos and would be regulated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. Betting would be legal on collegiate sports and the Olympics, but not high school or other youth sporting events.
Drake University professor, Keith Miller, studies the gambling industry. He believes that Iowa has a “95 percent” chance of legalizing sports betting before the end of the 2019 legislative session, which ends this spring.
“I think they can smell victory a little bit,” Miller said. “The strong likelihood is that this is going to go through.”
Miller said sports betting is projected to generate about $100 million in Iowa.
While there has been little organized opposition to the legalization of sport betting in Iowa, a poll conducted last month for the Des Moines Register showed that many of the state’s residents aren’t in favor of expanding gambling in the state.
The survey of 803 adults found that 52 percent opposed expanding legal gambling, including sports betting, with only 40 percent in favor. Betting on collegiate sporting events was opposed by a margin of 68-25.