Oct 25, 2021 - News

Iowa Gaming Association members push for statewide online gambling

Illustration of a hand of high cards in five separate mobile phones.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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.

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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