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Casinos, daily fantasy sports big winners in new sports betting bill

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Jim Franke Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Jim Franke sits in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City in 2018.

DES MOINES -- Sports betting would be legalized and hosted by the state’s 19 casinos, including the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City and Grand Falls Casino & Resort near Larchwood, under a new legislative proposal.

The proposal, which also includes an online option, was introduced Wednesday in the Iowa House, and will receive its first subcommittee hearing Thursday.

It is similar — but not identical — to a proposal making its way through the Iowa Senate.

What the two proposals have in common:

• betting on professional and college sporting events would be legalized in Iowa.

• betting on daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel would be legalized.

• casinos would be eligible to apply for licenses to host sports betting on-site and online.

• the betting activity would be regulated by the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission.

• gambling addiction would be addressed with program funding and allowing participants to set limits on their gambling.

What’s different about the proposals:

• the House established a tax of 6.75 percent on gaming revenue. The Senate has not yet established a tax rate.

• the Senate requires online gamblers in the first 18 months under the new law create their new account at a casino. The House bill has no such requirement.

Each proposal is scheduled for a hearing Thursday afternoon at the Iowa Capitol.

What’s not in the bills also is important.

Some of the professional sports leagues had asked for an integrity fee to protect the leagues against what they say are additional risks brought by legalized gambling on their games, a requirement that the casinos purchase the data that resolves bets from the leagues, and a voice in determining what kinds of in-game bets — known as proposition or “prop” bets — would be allowed. None of those were included in either bill.

The Iowa Lottery had requested the ability to provide sports betting where lottery items are already sold. That was not included in either bill.

“We feel good about the process. It’s been an open, transparent process. We’ve taken input from colleagues, constituents, stakeholders,” said Roby Smith, a Republican senator from Davenport who chairs the state government committee through which the Senate bill would pass. “We’re working on a bill. It’s a work in progress to come up with the best possible bill for all Iowa. And we still have many more steps to go in the process.”

Optimism was expressed by Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association, which represents the state’s casinos. He said he thinks the differences between the two bills can be worked out.

“We feel it’s an ideal solution to have competitive and robust sports betting legalized here in Iowa via the casinos who have a long-standing history (with) not only the expertise and the experience but the ability to operate in a highly compliant, highly regulated environment,” Ehrecke said.


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