JOHNSTON | Sports betting has “a very good shot” of being legalized in Iowa this year, a key state lawmaker says.
An unsuccessful attempt last year to pass legislation that would legalize sports betting in Iowa has created a strong foundation and momentum for this year’s effort, said Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton who chairs the committee through which any proposal will pass.
Kaufmann said he expects to schedule the first hearing on sports betting legislation this year for the first week in February, just in time for Super Bowl week.
A May 2018 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize betting on sporting events. Previously, sports betting was legal only in Nevada, with a few rare exceptions.
Some states have already legalized sports betting, and others — including Iowa — are considering it.
Legislation worked through the Iowa Capitol last year, but the Supreme Court had not yet ruled.
Though gambling expansion often takes multiple years to generate enough support to pass the Iowa Legislature, Kaufmann said with support building over time, last year’s Supreme Court ruling and the groundwork laid last legislative session, sports betting could become legal in Iowa this year.
“I think the consensus has been building for years,” Kaufmann said Thursday during taping for this weekend’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television. “I think one of the things that was preventing a bill from becoming law in years past was the fact that we knew that the Supreme Court ruling might come down and we didn't want to preempt them and do something that would then be nullified by a potential ruling. ...
“The groundwork that was laid these last several years I think gives us a very good shot of getting this done this session.”
Kaufmann said he will hold multiple subcommittee and committee hearings on the legislation in order to give it a full airing before the public and all stakeholders.
There will be disagreements among those stakeholders that must be taken into consideration as the legislation is drafted.
The professional sports leagues, for example, want a percentage of revenues as a so-called integrity fee to insure themselves from any harmful effects of gambling on their games.
Casinos want to house sports betting in their facilities and online through mobile applications. But in some states, the lottery system has wanted to offer sports betting at places where lottery games are sold.
And legislators will have to decide at what rate to tax the sports betting revenue, and into which state pot that new money should go.
Solving those legislative riddles will be crucial to the bill’s success, a state gambling law expert said.
“When the legislation is put together for sports betting, it does need to be comprehensive,” said Keith Miller, a Drake University Law School professor and expert on sports gambling. “It can’t be patchwork. Those agreements, those compromises have to be made at the beginning rather than trying to make them later.”