If you’re taking bets on which state will be the first to legalize sports betting in 2019, you might want to consider laying down some money on Iowa. On Tuesday, an Iowa subcommittee moved forward Senator Roby Smith’s Senate Study Bill 1168, which would legalize sports betting, including state-wide mobile sports betting. It would also legalize betting on fantasy sports.
The bill, one of nine sports betting bills listed on the Iowa state legislature website, lacks many critical details, including a tax rate, licensing fees, and where sports betting revenue will be directed. With regard to mobile sports betting, the bill would allow operators to have up to two “skins,” and would require in-person registration until Jan. 1, 2021. The bill allows for betting on professional and collegiate sports.
The professional leagues would be shut out of a payout (or “integrity fee” or “royalty”) in this bill, and whether or not the state will require sportsbooks to use official league data is not addressed. The bill calls for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to regulate, and allows for sports betting on an “excursion gambling boat, gambling structure, or racetrack enclosure.”
Similar bill expected in Iowa House
Smith (R-District 47), the chairman of the Committee on State Government, has moved his bill along quickly, and, according to the Des Moines Register, a similar bill is expected to be filed in the House.
The Senate bill will now head to the Ways and Means Committee, where a tax rate, fees and the details will be discussed. The lack of details in the bill left some senators scratching their heads.
“We just voted out of subcommittee a sports betting bill … (but) we have no idea the tax rates we’re going to charge, the fees and the licenses and how we’re going to deal with fantasy sports,” Senator Tony Bisignano (D-District 17) told the Register. Bisignano did not vote in favor of the bill.
As the bill continues to work its way through the system, lobbyists for the professional sports leagues, including the NFL, will continue to lobby against its passage — or at least for an amendment. Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the PGA Tour have been lobbying across the country since early last year in an effort to get a royalty or “integrity fee.”
No state has passed a law that would pay the pro leagues. But the real money for the professional leagues will likely be through the sale of “official league data,” which is a provision of bills percolating in a number of states.
Btw. The Iowa Lottery, Scientific Games, and Casey’s, all list as Undecided. That is the lottery block in my opinion. There are probably other C-Store chains with lottery sales that will engage here as well. This is a casino bill. Not a slam dunk.
— Steve Brubaker (@SteveBrubaker) February 19, 2019
Pro league lobbyists may not be on the same page
It’s likely that the NFL, which is not advocating for a direct cut of wagers, will continue to break from the other pro leagues when it comes to lobbying. The league has been clear that it wants the purchase of league data to be mandated, but has not publicly supported a fee, which is also the NHL’s position.
The league’s “core points” for sports betting include protection of intellectual property, consumer protections, use of official league data, and cooperation from law enforcement to help preserve the integrity of the game. The league also openly favors a federal framework rather than state-by-state laws.
If the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino is any indication, the feeling in Iowa is that sports betting will be legalized this session. The facility announced last week that it will partner with operator William Hill to run its sportsbook — an 8,600-square foot venue that it is already constructing. Prairie Meadows is the first Iowa casino to contract with a sports betting operator.
Iowa has mature gaming infrastructure, with 19 commercial casinos and a handful of tribal casinos.
Below, highlights of Iowa SSB 1168
Mobile Betting? Yes
In-person registration required? Yes, until Jan. 1, 2021
Tax rate: To be determined by general assembly
Application/renewal fee: To be determined by general assembly
Legal to bet on college games?: Yes, but betting on minor league and amateur sports are prohibited
Fee to pro leagues: No
Use of “official league data” mandated?: Not addressed
Regulatory body: Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission
Where the money goes: To be determined by the general assembly