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Iowa casinos anticipate new law allowing sports betting

Posted at 6:01 PM, Apr 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-19 20:45:14-04

COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA (KMTV) — Iowa is one step closer to legalizing sports betting and fantasy sports.

States began legalizing sports gambling last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ended Nevada's monopoly.

Iowa’s bill was approved by the State Senate and could go to the Iowa House as soon as Monday

“We're really excited to get sports betting in Iowa,” Jill Beasley, VP Marketing, Harrah’s and Horseshoe Casinos said.

Just this week, she said executive from their Las Vegas parent company, Caesars Entertainment, visited Council Bluffs.

"They walked both properties, Harrah's and Horseshoe CB,” Beasley said. “To identify the best location to have sports betting at our facilities. We have quite a few options so we're going to get those back and hopefully put things in place.”

Under this measure, betting on Iowa minor league, high school, and college sports would still not be allowed.

"Illegal sports betting has been going on for a very long time,” Beasley said. “What we're really excited about, it’s going to create an alternative for sports fans who like to bet but in a regulated and safe way and that's what’s really important to Caesars Entertainment."

"Sports wagering will no longer be acceptable in the dark,” Iowa State Sen Roby Smith, (R) Davenport said. “The sun is shining, and Iowans will be able to participate legally and responsibly."

Sports betting would be limited to those 21 and older, and the bill sets a 6.75% tax on net receipts. Taxes and licensing fees could bring in estimated annual revenue of $2.3 million to $4 million annually.

Opponents are worried about expanding gambling in the state.

"I have met quite a few Iowans who have experienced gambling addiction,” Iowa State Sen. Claire Celsi, (D) West Des Moines said. “We already have phone addiction. This is just merging the two -- gambling and phones, which to me seems like a very bad idea."

Prairie flower casino in Carter Lake said it would be premature to speculate on specific sports wagering plans since sports wagering isn’t legalized in Iowa at this time. The Tribe believes that Prairie Flower Casino should to be treated the same as other Tribal casinos in Iowa.

Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs said if the legislation is signed into law, they do expect to offer sports betting at the casino.

“The sports wagering bill was thoughtfully crafted with a reasonable tax rate and appropriate regulatory oversight so that Iowa’s casinos can effectively compete with the off-shore illegal market,” Jeff Morris, VP Public Affairs, Penn National Gaming (Ameristar) said. “Legalizing sports betting will help drive new visitation to our property and provide our guests with another exciting amenity to enjoy at Ameristar Council Bluffs.”

In anticipation of this bill, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, near Des Moines, built an 8,600 sq. ft. sports book on their fourth floor.

“We are excited to expand our resort offerings with a fully renovated Clubhouse that includes both our racing center and new William Hill sports book. Once the legislative process is complete, this innovative partnership will provide many fun and unique sports betting options for our guests,” Brad Rhines, Chief Strategic Officer of Prairie Meadows said.

If the bill doesn’t pass, Prairie Meadows plans to use the space for horse racing simulcasts.