On the eve of the one-year anniversary of sports betting legalization by the U.S. Supreme Court, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a Iowa sports betting bill into law. As a result, The Hawkeye State has become the nation’s 12th state to officially legalize the industry.
After just six days of debate, the Iowa General Assembly passed Senate File 617 through both chambers, sending the legislation to Reynolds’ desk for final approval on April 22.
Exactly three weeks later – and one day before the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling which repealed a federal ban on sportsbooks outside of Nevada – the Republican Governor surprised many observers in traditionally conservative Iowa by signing off on the Iowa sports betting bill. When the Iowa sports betting bill originally arrived on her desk, Reynolds had 30 days to either sign it into law, exercise the executive veto power, or allow the Iowa sports betting bill to become law without her signature.
Despite achieving bipartisan support among lawmakers, a poll conduced by the Des Moines Register revealed 52 percent of respondents in Iowa opposed legalized sports betting. The dismal poll numbers – combined with Reynolds’ refusal to comment on the legislation one way or another – led many pundits to predict a veto was in the cards.
In a letter sent to the Sioux City Journal, Reynolds’ spokesman Pat Garrett explained the Governor’s decision to embrace a new era of gambling expansion in Iowa:
“Gov. Reynolds believes that legalizing sports betting will bring this practice out of an unregulated black market. This law will regulate, tax, and police sports betting in a safe and responsible way.”
Since the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision to strike down a federal ban last May, seven states – Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island – have launched legal sportsbooks. Arkansas voters approved legal bet shops last November, and this month alone, Montana, Indiana, Tennessee, and Iowa have joined their ranks.
Breaking Down the Iowa Sports Betting Bill
As the Governor’s statement alludes to, legal sports betting in Iowa will be regulated by the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC).
Upon securing a license from the IRGC – which will cost $45,000 up front and $10,000 for an annual renewal fee – approved operators can accept wagers via onsite sportsbooks, or via online / mobile apps. Licensed sportsbooks can contract with third-party bookmakers to run their online / mobile platforms.
Anyone physically located within Iowa state lines can use the online / mobile options, but in-person registration at an operator’s brick and mortar location is required.
Gross gaming revenue derived from sports betting will be taxed at 6.75 percent, with an extra 0.75 percent tax sending funds to local charities.
Casinos Gearing Up for Late Summer Launch
IRGC officials have told local media outlets that sportsbooks should be approved to accept wagers by “July or August,” with the launch timeline designed to take advantage of the upcoming NFL season.
Jeff Morris – who serves as vice president of public affairs for Ameristar Casinos parent company Penn National Gaming – told KMTV-3 Omaha News that the company’s venue in Council Bluffs will benefit from building a sportsbook:
“The sports wagering bill was thoughtfully crafted with a reasonable tax rate and appropriate regulatory oversight so that Iowa’s casinos can effectively compete with the off-shore illegal market.
Legalizing sports betting will help drive new visitation to our property and provide our guests with another exciting amenity to enjoy at Ameristar Council Bluffs.”
And at the Hard Rock Sioux City casino, spokesman Mike Adams told the Sioux City Journal that his venue is already talking with third-party bookmakers to operate the backend, and architects to design and construct an onsite sportsbook:
“Right now, we’re reviewing a number of options.
We just have to see what is the best fit.”