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Hard Rock Hotel and Casino press tour

The gaming floor at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City is shown.

DES MOINES -- The legalization of sports betting in Iowa was approved Wednesday by the Iowa Senate.

The proposal heads next to the Iowa House, where it may be debated soon, a key legislative leader said.

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting if they choose.

Iowa state lawmakers have been considering a proposal throughout this year’s legislative session, and on Wednesday it moved one step closer to becoming law when it passed the Senate on a 31-18 vote.

It was not a typical, party-line vote with one party’s member supporting and the other opposing. In the end, 19 Republican and 12 Democratic senators voted for the proposal, while 12 Republicans and six Democrats voted against it.

There was no debate on the proposal prior to the vote, which also is unusual. The only lawmaker to speak about the bill on the Senate floor Wednesday was its manager, Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport.

“I believe what we’re doing in this bill is the right thing to do,” Smith said. “Our task was to establish the proper regulatory framework that promotes a safe, secure and reliable entity. And I believe we have accomplished that goal.”

Supporters of the proposal to legalize sports betting have argued the activity is already taking place, and the state would be better off legalizing, regulating and taxing it.

“Sports wagering will no longer be acceptable in the dark. The sun is shining and Iowans will be able to participate legally and responsibly,” Smith said.

The proposal, Senate File 617, would legalize sports betting on professional and college athletics.

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The proposal would have sports betting take place in Iowa’s state-regulated casinos or online. The activity would be regulated by the state commission that regulates greyhound and horse racing.

Casinos that host sports betting would pay annual fees, and revenue from sports betting would be taxed at 6.75 percent.

The bill also legalizes betting on daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. A late change to the bill excluded daily fantasy sports betting on college athletics. 

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who chairs the House committee through which the bill passed, said leaders in the two chambers worked together on the bill. That indicates there is sufficient support to pass it out of the House and send it to the desk of Gov. Kim Reynolds for her approval or veto.

The governor’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening after passage of the bill in the Senate.

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