Sponsor is optimistic at Iowa bill nears Senate floor

How Close Is Iowa Sports Betting? Just A Few Steps Remain Ahead Of Key Vote

Iowa sports betting 2019

The Iowa Senate sports betting bill is on the move, and it’s getting closer to matching the bill that already is on the House floor.

Sen. Roby Smith, sponsor of S 366, tells Legal Sports Report that he expects his legislation to pass through the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday to reach the Senate chamber.

The bill advanced in a Ways and Means subcommittee Tuesday by a vote of 2-0-1.

“I feel good about where the bill is at,” Smith said. “Once it moves on from Ways and Means, it will be at the same level through the process as the House bill. We should both be floor-eligible next week.”

Iowa House and Senate sports betting bills begin to match

Smith indicated that the sports betting bill will be amended Thursday in Ways and Means to make five main changes, three of which will align it with the House bill:

  • Ban in-game bets for Iowa collegiate games.
  • A 6.75% state tax on gross gaming revenues.
  • Extend the 11% of casino revenue that Prairie Meadows uses to subsidize its live horse racing program to sports betting revenue. This will drop to 6%, though, as Prairie Meadows goes over $200 million in total contributions to horse racing.

Senate wants sports wagering to give back to community

In Iowa, each of the 19 commercial casinos located in 15 counties is required to share its license with a qualified sponsoring organization (QSO). These nonprofit license holders receive a portion from their respective casino’s gaming revenue to reinvest in charitable causes and civic needs.

Smith stated that the committee will add language requiring casinos to provide 0.75% of gross gaming revenue from sports wagering to their QSO. This will make the effective tax rate 7.5%.

Through the County Endowment Fund, a percentage of the state’s gaming tax revenue is distributed to community foundations in the 84 counties that do not hold a state-issued gaming license. This also will be applied to sports betting, with 0.5 percent of the state’s take going to the County Endowment.

These changes are not in the House bill.

“There’s still some language that doesn’t match up, but we’re more than on the same page,” Smith said. “We’re maybe on the same paragraph, different sentences. I see us working out our differences.”

Next steps for sports betting in Iowa

Smith, who noted that he’s spent more hours on this bill than any he’s worked on in his nine years in the legislature, expects it to be brought up on the floor by the week after next.

The earliest it could come up is late next week. The timing is at the discretion of the Senate Majority Leader.

“We have a month left,” Smith said. “It’s plenty of time to take this last step of the legislative process, which is to bring it to the floor. Then the governor will have her time to review the bill.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has said that she thinks sports betting needs to be regulated. Smith is optimistic that she would sign a bill.

“I’ve known Gov. Kim Reynolds for more than a decade and she’s always been someone who is open-minded,” Smith said. “I think she’s just waiting on the final product to get to her desk before she makes a comment on it.”

Matthew Kredell
- Matthew began writing about legislative efforts to regulate online poker in 2007 after UIGEA interfered with his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker while working as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. Covering the topic for Bluff Magazine, PokerNews and now Online Poker Report, he has interviewed four U.S. Congressmen and 20+ state legislators. His poker writing has been cited by The Atlantic, Politico.com and CNN.com. A freelance writer based in Los Angeles, Matt has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men's Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.
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