Iowa Gaming Association members push for statewide online gambling
A possible push for legal online gambling in Iowa is underway, Iowa Gaming Association president Wes Ehrecke told Axios.
- But legislative approval is necessary — and it's too early to say whether the idea, favored by some of the association's members, has traction for next year's session, he said.
Why it matters: If successful, you might be able to place casino bets from your bedside.
- But there are concerns about how it might affect the state's brick-and-mortar casinos, which employ thousands of people and pay hundreds of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue.
- It could also create a new wave of gambling addictions and social problems, Tom Coates, the director of Consumer Credit of Des Moines, told Axios.
The big picture: A 1961 federal law had been used to prohibit states from conducting online gambling until 2011, when it was interpreted differently by the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Recent challenges to that interpretation ended in June when the federal government didn't pursue an appeal, solidifying a state's right to regulate online gaming.
- Several states already have online gambling, including Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Zoom in: Legalized sports betting is relatively new in Iowa. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it into law two years ago.
- Before that, the state legalized pari-mutuel wagering on horse and dog racing in 1983, created the Iowa Lottery in 1985 and opened its first riverboat casino gambling operation in 1991 under former Gov. Terry Branstad.
What they're saying: Online gaming can create jobs, boost state tax revenue and spur technological innovation, according to iDevelopment and Economic Association (iDEA).
The other side: Prairie Meadows CEO Gary Palmer alerted Polk County supervisors of potential efforts to establish online casino gaming in Iowa during a meeting earlier this month.
- Roughly 95% of sports bets conducted through Prairie Meadows are already done off-site. Broadening online gaming could hurt the nonprofit casino, he said.
Polk County Chair Angela Connolly told Axios that online expansion could be devastating to county finances.
- "We hope to stop it," she added.
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