Market legalization

Possible push for statewide iGaming in Iowa underway, state's trade body says

Wes Ehrecke, Iowa Gaming Association President.
Reading time 1:35 min
While members of the Iowa Gaming Association favor the idea, it still requires legislative approval to launch. The body's president Wes Ehrecke claims it is still too early to say whether it has traction for next year's session.

A possible push for legal online gambling in Iowa is underway, Iowa Gaming Association president Wes Ehrecke told news site Axios. While some of the association’s members favor the idea, it still requires legislative approval to launch and, according to Ehrecke, is too early to say whether it has traction for next year’s session.

Statewide online gambling would permit gamers in Iowa to place bets from anywhere within the state. While user convenience is one of the main arguments in favor of legalization, there are concerns about how a potential launch would affect brick-and-mortar casinos. Land-based venues in the state currently employ thousands of people and report millions in annual tax revenue.

As more U.S. states offer online gambling, following the 2011 reinterpretation by the U.S. Department of Justice of The Wire Act, which ensures state’s right to regulate online gaming, proponents of iGaming in Iowa claim it could create jobs, boost state tax revenue and spur technological innovation.

But not everyone is in favor. Prairie Meadows CEO Gary Palmer alerted Polk County supervisors of establishing online casino gaming in the state, during a meeting earlier this month: roughly 95% of sports wagers conducted through Prairie Meadows are already done off-site, and broadening online gaming could hurt the nonprofit casino.

Iowa online gambling options extend to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and casinos, which include poker rooms. Bettors can also legally wager on sports online within the state, since the state legalized sports betting two years ago. However, online casinos and poker sites are currently not available, with the law specifically prohibiting them.

Since the opening of the first riverboat casinos in 1991, the state’s gaming industry has generated more than $6 billion in tax revenue. The fact that a majority of state residents now approve legal sports betting could signify a similar endorsement of iGaming in the future.

Moreover, poker, often considered a skill-based game rather than a game of chance, could leverage this argument for potential legalization. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), which are currently legal in Iowa, employ this reason to operate.

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