Iowa sports gaming may not come as quickly as in other states, but one of the state’s top gaming industries has discussed an implementation strategy.
The Iowa Lottery Board directed staff to evaluate sports betting expansion in the state following a meeting June 20. Though this is a mere first step in possible gaming, the action advances sports wagering in a state where it has already garnered support from casinos and some lawmakers.
ILB board member Mary Neubaur said her group fielded requests from some of the state lottery’s largest retail partners to accept bets after the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports wagering.
“Given the expertise involved, we fully anticipate that our current system provider could allow the Iowa Lottery to offer sports betting,” Neubauer said according to a report from Radio Iowa. Neubaur also said this would be contingent on state lawmakers, a group that has offered disparate positions on gambling expansion.
Backed by the state’s 22 casinos and other gaming stakeholders, legislators in Des Moines introduced legislation for sports betting even before the Supreme Court removed the federal ban, one of only 18 states to do so. Legislation was re-introduced earlier this year, but the proposal didn’t gain much traction and nothing came to fruition before the 2018 legislative session ended.
Gaming interests said they will continue to lobby the legislature ahead of the 2019 session in January and some officials said they’re confident of bipartisan support in the coming year. Opposition will almost assuredly remain at the state house, but with a half dozen or more states, including Rhode Island and Mississippi expected to legalize sports betting by that time, public opinion could continue to shift in support of legalized betting on sporting events.
With any legislation requiring a governor’s signature, the election this fall could also play a major factor.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has not taken a firm stance either way, but said she is open to exploring options with state lawmakers. Conversely, Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell wants Iowa to wait and evaluate other states’ actions before anything is advanced in the Hawkeye State.
The two remaining major-party candidates may be missing out on an opportunity to connect with voters. Internal polling from Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Corbett showed 70 percent of Iowans backed legalized sports betting.
Corbett’s campaign ended in April after a court ruled he had not obtained enough verified signatures to have his name on the ballot. Still, this poll indicates the winner may want to keep sports betting in mind.
If, and when, sports gambling comes to Iowa, a major debate remains around not just how wagers will be placed by what body will oversee it.
If the Iowa Lottery oversees it, it could make placing bets as easy as buying a lottery ticket. On the same screen players buy tickets at gas stations or convince stores, a single touch would open up options to place bets on a sporting event. Proponents, including the lottery board, said this would help boost revenue for these stores.
Delaware, the first state to legalize sports betting outside Nevada, regulates wagers through its state lottery.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission could also oversee sports gambling, which would place sportsbooks in the state’s casinos and racetracks. Either way, Iowans would finally have plenty of opportunities to place sports bets legally.