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Hard Rock Expansion

A high-stakes room is shown at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in May 2017. With Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday signing a bill that legalizes sports betting in Iowa, the downtown casino is moving ahead with plans to start taking wagers on most college and professional sports as early as July.

SIOUX CITY -- The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City and other casinos in Iowa can start taking legal wagers on college and professional sports, starting this summer, under legislation signed Monday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The bill will allow sports books at the 19 casinos licensed by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, as well as bets online on nearly all college and major pro sports.

The IRGC had previously said it would immediately begin to develop rules for sports betting through casinos. Officials have said the rules likely will be implemented in July or August, before college sports and NFL games kick off in the fall.

Sioux City's Hard Rock anticipates rolling out sports bets as soon as state regulators give their OK, Hard Rock spokesman Mike Adams said Monday night. The downtown casino is negotiating with a third-party entity to operate the sports book and is working with an architect to select the best spot for the new gambling option.

"Right now, we're reviewing a number of options," Adams said. "We just have to see what is the best fit."

The Grand Falls Casino & Resort also is looking to reconfigure and remodel some of its existing space to add sports betting, general manager Sharon Haselhoff said Monday night. The Lyon County casino, located just across the South Dakota border in extreme Northwest Iowa, also is talking with vendors to offer the sports book.

Officials from both Hard Rock and Grand Falls likely will present their sports book plans to the IRGC at its meeting in June. The five-member commission also will holds hearings on the new rules it’s developing for sports betting.

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for states other than Nevada to provide bookmaking and betting at casinos and racetracks. Iowa becomes the second state in the Midwest to do so, after Indiana.

Iowa’s law legalizes betting not only on pro and college athletics, but also on daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. The new law does not allow in-game bets — known commonly as proposition, or prop bets — on in-state college teams such as the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones. Such bets usually involve small wagering amounts on things like whether the first free throw of a basketball game is successful or if a player scores a certain number of points.

Reynolds had said little during the legislative session about her views on sports betting, leaving both sides wondering what she would do. The bill passed the Iowa House 67-31 April 22 after a vigorous floor debate, described by one Republican legislator as "the best debate I've seen this year." It passed the Senate a week before that, 31-18.

"Gov. Reynolds believes that legalizing sports betting will bring this practice out of an unregulated black market,” Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett said in an email Monday to the Journal Des Moines Bureau. “This law will regulate, tax, and police sports betting in a safe and responsible way."

The state stands to collect a 6.75% tax on the casinos' sports-betting “hold," which is the house’s share after bets have been settled. Betting will be restricted to adults age 21 and over.

Iowa's new sports wagering is expected to draw bettors from neighboring states like South Dakota and Nebraska. The latter is a major source of revenue at three casinos just across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs.

Nebraskans and other out-of-state bettors will be able to participate in sports betting using an app on their mobile phones. First, however, they would have to visit a casino in person to establish an account. The app would work only within Iowa’s borders, so Nebraskans would have to travel to Iowa to place bets.

The Journal's Des Moines Bureau contributed to this story.

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