CLINTON — When a sports betting bill is once again introduced in the Iowa Legislature in 2019, it’s going to draw a bit more attention than the one that circulated in the Iowa House of Representatives this past session.
With the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, signed into law in 1992, sports betting can now be considered a legal enterprise if individual states pass legislation legalizing sports betting. The Act prohibited the majority of states from enacting any measure legalizing sports betting.
While some Iowa legislators were anticipating this ruling made Monday, thus creating House Study Bill 592, there wasn’t much discussion about the possibility of the law coming to fruition during the spring session.
Iowa House Reps. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, and Norlin Mommsen, R-DeWitt, did not participate in much discussion on the study bill introduced in 2018, but anticipate a more robust debate in 2019.
“Fantasy sports was a big deal for a long time and it comes up every session, but obviously this is different than fantasy sports,” Wolfe said Tuesday. “I don’t recall many discussions (on the sports betting). I definitely anticipate something to happen next session. As soon as we can start filing those bills, I’m sure legislation will be filed.”
Mommsen desired a delay in enacting any sports betting measure until the Supreme Court ruled on the issue.
“Basically I was one of them to say let’s wait and see what the court does before we decide anything,” Mommsen said. “I think at the beginning of the next session, we’ll deal with the issue.”
But now that states have the ability to enact legislation to legalize sports betting, don’t expect it to happen overnight, even when the Iowa Legislature reconvenes in January.
According to a report by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, which examines gambling legislation across the country, 32 states are likely to approve sports betting within the next five years, with Iowa and Illinois being two of those states.
Figuring out the details of what is possible and how it can be completed is something that will be debated in 2019, Mommsen said.
“How easy do we make it?” Mommsen said. “Are there going to be any unintended consequences? They want it to happen at the casino, which would draw patrons there, which in a way would alleviate one of my concerns.”
Subcommittee discussions regarding the study bill in Iowa highlighted the need to create mobile sports betting capabilities for casinos, but did not define how the profits generated from sports betting would be distributed.
Currently, casinos in Iowa set aside a portion of profits to a local gaming commission, which then distributes those funds to area non-profits.
In 2017, the Clinton County Development Association, the license holder for the Wild Rose Casino and Resort in Clinton, awarded more than $900,000 in grants to local organizations.
While it’s likely Iowans won’t see any action until 2019 on the sports betting front, the Illinois legislature may act sooner, rather than later.
The Illinois General Assembly will be in session until May 31. While it’s unlikely legislation will be approved by the end of this month, the issue could be brought back up in the fall, according to reports.
Calls to the Wild Rose Casino and Resort, Iowa State Sen. Rita Hart and Illinois State Rep. Tony McCombie were not returned.