Sports betting: What Iowans need to know after Supreme Court ruling
SportsPulse: Supreme Court reporter Richard Wolf breaks down the SCOTUS ruling on sports betting in the United States, and what it could mean for the future of gambling in professional and college sports. USA TODAY Sports
Thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May 2018, the future of sports betting in Iowa could change radically in the coming years.
In short, the choice to have legalized sports betting now resides with the states.
But what do you need to know right now? Here's a quick overview:
How soon might Iowa offer sanctioned sports betting?
The state Legislature is likely to consider a version of a sports gambling bill again in the 2019 session.
In Iowa, the House took up the subject in its 2018 session, but no official action was taken beyond it advancing out of a subcommittee that February. Iowa's legislative leaders were reluctant to proceed without a decision by the high court.
Eight states already have laws allowing sports gambling on the books, according to an ESPN.com national tracker.
The Chicago Tribune reports research firms are saying that 32 states would likely offer sports betting within five years.
At least one major Des Moines-area business is preparing for a future of legalized sports gambling.
Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in mid-January announced it has entered into a partnership with William Hill U.S. to operate the casino's sports book should gambling on sporting events officially become legal in Iowa.
The casino is constructing an 8,600-square-foot sports book on the fourth floor, near the horse racing center, as part of a larger remodeling project. The area will include a bar and state-of-the-art video wall where people can view sporting events and live betting odds.
Prairie Meadows is the first of Iowa's 19 commercial casinos to formally announce a sports betting partnership and sports book plans since the U.S. Supreme Court in May struck down a federal ban on sports wagering in most states.
"We think it's an exciting proposition," Prairie Meadows President and CEO Gary Palmer said. "There's unbelievable interest."
Some legislators have spoken favorably about the prospect of legalizing it in Iowa, though some have cautioned that any system would need to be properly regulated.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, plans to introduce legislation within the next two weeks to legalize the gaming.
Kaufmann chairs the House State Government Committee, which would consider any sports wagering legislation proposed in the Iowa House. He said he plans to hold a subcommittee meeting on the topic by the end of January.
Some Democrats said they are open to supporting legislation, but they want to be sure safeguards are in place.
"Here’s how I kind of look at it: If it’s coming and it’s here and we have gaming in the state of Iowa, it’s better to get ahead of it and control some of the provisions of it and where the money is going to go and how the state of Iowa can benefit from it," said Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha.
While campaigning for the governor's race in September, Gov. Kim Reynolds said, "there are a lot of questions to be answered," about what sports betting could look like in Iowa.
"What we are doing is working with the Legislature, working with the different agencies to see what that would look like and how it would be implemented," she said at the time.
THE NATIONAL ANGLE:What's the big picture on sports betting timelines?
Can I already legally bet on certain contests?
Yes, but to a strictly limited and specific degree. Iowa has long held exceptions for horse racing and other pari-mutuel wagering, and what it calls "social gambling" — think amusement park and carnival games, darts, bingo, raffles and even formally organized March Madness pools.
But places wishing to conduct these events need a special social gambling license from the state. Social gambling participants cannot wager more than $5, and the maximum winnings to all participants in the pool cannot exceed $500. Liquor establishments cannot officially conduct the pools.
Poker tournaments are big no-nos. And even wagers between individuals "who are together for purposes other than gambling" are limited to $50 over a 24-hour period.
Under those regulations, remember that your those informal, big-money office pools on the NCAA Tournament or the Super Bowl with your friends (and even family!) would almost certainly remain illegal — even if new legislation is passed. That's a small slice of the $150 billion gambled annually on sports in the U.S., of which 97 percent is bet illegally, according to the AGA.
What about daily fantasy sports games, like FanDuel and DraftKings?
You'll have to wait on the Legislature.
Currently, Iowa is one of five states (along with Arizona, Louisiana, Montana and Washington) that has specific legislation banning games that involve any manner of chance. Nevada, Idaho, Hawaii and Alabama also either have strict limitations in place regulating such as FanDuel and DraftKings, or the services have left the states entirely on their own.
Any changes will require the rewriting of Section 725 of the Iowa Code, which currently outlaws this variety of sports betting "for any sum of money."
Aren't pro sports leagues wanting in on the action?
The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have pushed states to adopt the idea of a 1 percent sports integrity fee that would be taken out of all sports bets before government taxes and given to the leagues. They've pitched the idea as a way to police point-shaving and other gambling-related corruption and were formally registered in opposition to the most recent bill to make its way through the Iowa Legislature.
Most states aren't buying the concept, however. Iowa legislators did not include an integrity fee as part of their proposal this past session.
What was the old law, anyway?
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and went into effect in January 1993. Nevada — the only state at the time the bill became law that had widespread state-sponsored sports bettors — and three other states with more limited betting (Oregon, Delaware and Montana) were grandfathered in.
The act didn’t outlaw sports betting, because that was already illegal. Rather, it banned states — outside those given exemptions — from regulating (and taxing) sports betting.
Could new federal laws make things more complicated?
Sports and gambling law attorney Daniel Wallach told USA TODAY Sports that new federal legislation could come well after many states have already started taking bets.
"At some point, if the legislation starts to diverge from state to state and, more importantly, the leagues don't get what they want at the state level, I think you will see Congress jump into the fray and pass some kind of legislation to create more uniformity across the country," Wallach said.
Currently, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) proposed the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement (GAME) Act more than a year ago, but it hasn’t even been considered by a committee. Part of the GAME Act would mandate consumer protections, including a ban on underage betting, and establish safeguards against compulsive gambling.
USA TODAY Sports contributed to this report.