Reflection on Sports Betting in Iowa, Two Years Later

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Making home gambling more accessible has costs as well as benefits.

Sports betting on the Isle of Capri in Bettendorf. (Gary Krambeck / Quad City Times)

Much of Iowa’s legislative philosophy allows the people of Iowa to make their own decisions in areas that other states strongly regulate. We have liquor and drive stores, cocktails in bars, wine and beer delivery and it is possible to purchase any type of alcoholic beverage at your local gas station.

Compared to other states, Iowa is the ungoverned wild (mid) west. The legalization of sports betting in 2019 with a monitored two-year rollout follows the precedent of trusting the Iowans to make their own decisions and take advantage of new tax revenue opportunities for the state without raising taxes on citizens. Perhaps the only exceptions to this kind of law are that indoor smoking was banned in 2005, recreational marijuana and other drugs are likely to remain illegal for the foreseeable future, and no lawmaker will touch the law. legalization of sex work with a 10 foot pole.

The pandemic has been brutally hard on casinos, with Governor Kim Reynolds ordering them to close their doors in March 2020. However, according to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission report to the governor, “One bright spot in 2020 was sports betting. “

For industry players, sports betting revenue more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, from $ 19.3 million to $ 41.6 million. In 2020, $ 249.8 million in tax revenue went to cities, counties and the state. Sports betting accounted for only $ 2.9 million of that sum, but saw record months of growth in the fall and winter of 2020. It is also worth mentioning that there are 6,237 people employed in the area.

Iowa has a long history of gambling tolerance. Compared to the rest of the Midwest, Iowa has perhaps the most permissive gambling laws. We were even one of the first states to legalize casinos along with Nevada, New Jersey and South Dakota and the first state to legalize river casinos. This first step towards larger gambling permissions was likely due to the fact that we were bordering the Mississippi River, where riverboat casinos could dock throughout the 1800s and 1900s.

More recently, the state legalized horse and dog racing in 1983, while 1985 saw the birth of the state lottery.

In May 2019, sports betting became legal and retail and online betting operations began in August 2019. Initially, sports betting was limited. For the first 18 months after legalization, bettors had to physically visit a state-licensed casino to set up an in-person account before playing remotely on an app. This drawback likely slowed the deployment of the first year. Now, adult Iowans can create an account anywhere.

Making home gambling more accessible has costs as well as benefits. Illegal gambling is rampant in America, the “call my bookie” trope is a popular topic on TikTok, and TV shows allude to the frequency of illegal gambling. According to the 2020 US Sports Bettor Survey, 52% of last year’s bettors participated in the illegal market in 2019, while 55% of consumers who placed most of their bets with illegal operators said that they thought they were betting legally.

The legalization of betting, especially sports betting, is a way to bring shadow betting into the legal market and for the state to make a profit and give punters and bookers the legal protection they deserve. so much needed. Gambling is addictive and this addiction can now be accessed through apps instantly, making it more difficult for addicts to pull out of the situation. However, given the share of the illegal gambling market, having an app is only slightly more convenient than writing a text message or making a phone call.

Iowa has one of the soundest state budget practices in the country and our government is smartly capitalizing on new tax revenue opportunities when they arise instead of outright increasing revenues or businesses. Reflecting on the reality that gambling will perform regardless of legal permissions was the right decision to make in 2019 and it follows our pragmatic, pun intended, track record with the industry.

Patricia Patnode is a member of the editorial staff of the Gazette. Comments: [email protected]