• The Iowa Senate passed SF 617 by a bipartisan majority, sending the bill to the house.
  • SF 617 would legalize land-based and online sports betting.
  • The bill would also legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports.

DES MOINES, Iowa – To hear the Iowa Senate tell it, legal sports betting is coming to the state, and you can take that to the house! Or, in this case, to the House, where it will be debated before potentially heading to the governor’s desk.

While the Iowa legislature is currently sitting on eight or so different sports betting laws, the Senate’s SF 617 is the one that seems to have real legs.

With amendments in tow, the bill passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 31-18.

In a somewhat unusual step, the bill was not read or debated on the floor before the final vote, which leads some analysts to believe that the legislation was considered a foregone conclusion in the chamber (even by those on the dissenting side).

The next step for SF 617 is to go to the Iowa House, where its prospects are considered quite good.

The bill, originated by Republican sponsor Sen. Roby Smith (R-47), has strong bipartisan support, with 12 Democrat Senators joining 19 Republicans in approving the bill in the upper chamber. More of the same is expected in the House.

Retail And Mobile Betting Would Both Be Offered In Iowa

Broadly, SF 617 would legalize land-based brick-and-mortar sports betting at racetracks, excursion gambling boats, and in casino venues. Including tribal casinos, that means that a minimum of 22 physical Iowa venues could have sportsbooks up and running under this law.

Additionally, SF 617 would legalize mobile sports wagering over the Internet. Each physical book operator would be empowered to employ two “skins” (branded sports wagering services/partnerships), allowing for up to 44 different sports wager “brands” to operate in the state.

Internet-based sports betting is also explicitly limited to operation via “intrastate” infrastructures, ensuring total compliance with the federal Interstate Wire Act.

Those who wish to use domestic online sports betting products in Iowa would have to register in-person at a chosen operator’s physical retail location to do so. This requirement sunsets on January 1, 2021, after which time bettors would be able to register online.

Miscellaneous Bill Details

In addition to the above, SF 617 has a few pertinent points to discuss. Chief among these is the attached tax rate, which is set at an effective 7.5 percent of gross gaming revenue.

Per the legislation, the agency overseeing sports betting in the state would be the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

For operators who are eligible to offer Iowa sports betting, the initial license fee is set at $45,000 with an annual renewal fee of $10,000.

Compared to most other states, the licensing and tax terms installed by SF 617 are very operator-friendly, which will help keep Iowa sportsbooks’ odds competitive.

When it comes to amateur athletics, the law appears to allow NCAA wagering, with one caveat: prop betting on collegiate contests would be banned inside the state.

If SF 617 passes into law, Iowa would be the first state to broach the issue of college “integrity” using this tactic of barring proposition bets. (Because of their focus on individual statistical performances, props are viewed as arguably the easiest avenue for corruptibility among amateur athletes.)

Interestingly, SF 617 appears to bar wagering on minor league professional sports. Per the legislation, no minor league sport is included in the “authorized sporting event” standard.

In addition to formally legalizing sports wagering in Iowa, SF 617 would also legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS) in the state. This approach is rare, as DFS lobbyists have long sought to differentiate themselves from sports betting.

Though the inclusion of DFS in a legal sports betting bill does not designate the pastime as a form of sports betting, other states have sought to separate the concepts legislatively. Iowa, it seems, is going the full omnibus route.

The prospect for SF 617 to be passed by the House is strong, though the lower chamber will have to get a move on. The Iowa legislature will adjourn on May 3.

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