Iowa Governor Signs Bill Allowing Gambling on Sports

DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — Iowa is about to join the ranks of states that allow betting on sporting events, with Governor Kim Reynolds’ signature on enabling legislation Monday.

In this March 22, 2019, photo, customers watch a game during the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament at the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

The new law took effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, although it will take as long as two months for implementing rules to be drafted by the State Racing and Gaming Commission, which will regulate sports gambling in Iowa.

Earlier this month, Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock signed a new law giving that state’s lottery the ability to regulate sports gambling through kiosks and mobile applications. Montana’s law, which took effect immediately, will allow certain licensed bars and restaurants to operate gambling kiosks and allow patrons to use mobile applications while inside the establishments to place bets.

And last week, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a sports-betting bill into law. House Bill 1015 could take effect as soon as September and will allow adults 21 and older to place bets on sports.

The Iowa bill allows gamblers 21 and older to wager on professional and college games and other sporting events. It cleared its last legislative hurdle on April 22 when the Iowa House voted 67-31 to approve the measure that passed April 17 in the state Senate by a vote of 31-18.

Iowans will be able to wager on professional sporting events, including motor races, college sports and fantasy sports — games whose outcomes are determined by statistical performances of individual athletes.

Wagering would not be allowed on semiprofessional sporting events, international events such as the Olympics, and internationally sanctioned soccer. Nor would betting be allowed on the performance of an individual athlete participating in a single game or match of an Iowa college sporting event, or the performance of an athlete under 18 in an international event.

The Iowa bill was opposed by some religious groups and some lawmakers who expressed concerns that it would encourage gambling addiction. Yet the bill had bipartisan support, and opposition, in both chambers.

A February poll by the Des Moines Register found that 52% of respondents said they opposed legalized betting on professional sporting events, while 40% were in favor. Just 25% said they approved of gambling on college sports.

State lawmakers pushing the legislation argued, however, that gambling already happens on sporting events, but is not regulated or taxed by the state like other forms of betting in Iowa. 

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, made that argument during the floor debate. 

“This is an industry that is here. This bill regulates it, taxes it and polices it,” he said, according to the Register.

Iowa’s governor had not indicated whether she intended to sign the bill while legislators were still in session, and Monday’s bill-signing was not accompanied by any fanfare: A brief announcement that she had signed the bill was buried among a list of nine pieces of legislation signed by the governor Monday.

While the passing of these laws has been heralded as financial boons, they are expected to bring only modest returns to the states.

Iowa’s proposed law would tax net gambling revenues at 6.75%, which would generate an estimated $2.3 million to $4 million a year, according to The Associated Press.

The move by states to legalizing sports gambling was made possible by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which prohibited gambling on sporting events but made an exception for four states that already had set up sports lotteries. 

The Supreme Court held that the prohibition on state authorization of sports gambling violated the Constitution’s anti-commandeering doctrine under the 10th Amendment, which states that Congress cannot compel states to enact and enforce a federal regulation.

The NCAA too is loosening its own attitude towards sports gambling, as it has done away with a rule prohibiting championship events from being held in gambling-friendly states.

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