Iowa State Rep Predicts Sports Betting Legalization in 2019

Iowa Sports Betting Law 2019

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann is known for submitting bold proposals to the Iowa state legislature.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) said that Iowa has “a very good shot” of legalizing sports betting sometime this year. Rep. Kaufmann said that a failed attempt to pass a sports betting bill last year laid the groundwork for a successful effort in 2019.

The sportsbook legalization discussions come in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year which ended a 46-state ban on sports betting. States like Iowa now have the right to legalize sports betting, if they see fit.

With a major obstacle out of the way, Bobby Kaufmann says Iowa lawmakers are ready to consider a sports betting bill in earnest.

Rep. Kaufmann is the chairman of the Iowa House Government Oversight Committee, which would be the first committee to discuss a sports betting bill. The Oversight Committee could have a vote on the issue by March, but there is no timetable at present for when hearings or votes might take place.

Kaufmann: “Consensus Has Been Building”

Prior to taping an interview on the television program “Iowa Press” for Iowa Public Television, Bobby Kaufmann spoke to a reporter from The Gazette about the sports betting bill. He said, “I think the consensus has been building for years.”

When discussing the failure of a bill in early 2018, Rep. Kaufmann said, “I think one of the things that was preventing a bill from becoming law in years past was the fact that we knew that the Supreme Court ruling might come down, and we didn’t want to pre-empt them and do something that would then be nullified by a potential ruling.”

Now that the way is clear for individual states to legalize sports betting, the Iowa state legislature is much more likely to spend the time and political capital to make it happen. Kaufmann added, “The groundwork that was laid these last several years, I think, gives us a very good shot of getting this done this session.”

Iowa Sports Betting Bill Details

Iowa lawmakers still have several details they will need to agree upon before passing a bill. While consumer protections, age limits, and age verification systems are something most legislators can agree upon, issues like the tax rate on sports betting and which businesses can offer bookmaker bets could be contentious.

Land-based casinos want the right to offer sports betting — a framework that the 6 other states which have legalized sportsbooks have adopted. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other states, land-based casinos and racinos which have a gaming license are given the right to apply for a sports betting license — though the application costs a significant fee ranging in the thousands or even millions of dollars.

The Iowa Lottery also wants the right to offer sports betting. That could mean the Iowa Lottery’s online website might offer sports bets, but it also could throw open sports wagering to the many lottery vendor locations throughout the state. Iowa residents could make sports bets at the local convenience store, though those who get impatient with lotto bettors buying scratch cards might revolt at the idea of sports betting tickets while they stand in line.

Iowa Sportsbooks’ Tax Rate and Integrity Fees

Likely, the practice will be circumscribed. Even then, lawmakers will have to settle on a reasonable tax rate. Sports betting has a low margin, so a higher tax could make it impossible for bookmakers to offer a game comparable to illegal offshore online sportsbooks. The argument behind sports betting is it draws in more customers, thus making the casino profitable in other ways.

The now-familiar question of integrity fees also is likely to be discussed. Sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, and MLB argue they should receive a fee — from 0.25% to 1% — for maintaining the integrity of their sport. Critics of the integrity fee say it is excuse for sports leagues to get a cut of the action. Because the leagues have maintained for decades they were doing their utmost to protect the integrity of their games, the idea that expanded sports betting requires more effort is undercut.

Any integrity fee lowers the effective tax rate the state government collects, so all the US states which have legalized sports betting to this point have excluded integrity fee. The NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball are lobbying the U.S. Congress to pass sports betting regulations which would include such fees.

About Bobby Kaufmann

Bobby Kaufmann’s father, Jeff Kaufmann, was an Iowa state representative from 2005 to 2013. Jeff Kaufmann was a 7th generation livestock farmer before he represented the 79th District. He now serves as the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.

Rep. Bobby Kaufman became nationally famous for a time after the 2016 presidential election for introducing the Suck It Up, Buttercup bill to the Iowa legislature. When news spread that state universities in Iowa were using public funding to offer election-related counseling and other support services (“cry rooms”) for those aggrieved by the 2016 presidential election, Kaufmann introduced a bill which would take $2 in funding for every $1 spent on election counseling.

Subsequently, fact checker websites disputed whether Iowa universities actually had cry rooms for students. When pressed by the Canadian radio show, As It Happens, to give more detailed of the alleged cry rooms, Bobby Kaufmann hung up on the show in the middle of the interview and accused As It Happens of having a political agenda.