awmakers debated four bills to legalize sports betting this week, and none of them are going anywhere.
Instead, legislators will use the hours and hours of discussions this week about proposals to legalize and regulate sports betting in Iowa as the basis for an as-yet-unwritten new bill that will go through the same process all over again.
"We’re being very transparent, having a slow process, making sure everybody has ample time to give their thoughts, pros and cons on these different plans," Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, said. He chairs the Senate State Government Committee, which heard the quartet of four gambling industry measures Wednesday.
Lobbyists from the Iowa Lottery, casinos, professional sports leagues and the horse racing industry were in the same room for two hours Wednesday and another two on Thursday making the case that they are best suited to host a sports betting system in Iowa.
Smith and his House counterpart, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, say they will take what they heard this week and come up with new House and Senate bills that they will reintroduce in a week or two.
"My goal is to have a final bill out of committee by the end of February," Kaufmann said.
Keith Miller, a Drake Law School professor who has studied gambling for over a decade and recently coauthored a book on sports betting, said that's a good strategy.
"No one will be able to say that they didn't have input," he said.
Still, he said, lawmakers have a complicated task ahead of them.
"Nobody scored a knockout punch," he said. "None of the proposals were so overwhelmingly persuasive that I thought to myself, 'Boy, that is really going to be difficult to overcome.'"
And they won't be able to give everyone what they want.
"It will be impossible to reconcile all these competing interests," Miller said. "There are going to be some people who are unhappy."
Miller said if Iowa adopts a legalized sports betting system that relies on the state lottery or casinos it will be in line with what other states have done in legalizing sports betting since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that opened the door for states to sanction the practice.
Kaufmann and Smith said they will try to keep the new House and Senate proposals as similar as possible.
"While we might have competing interests as far as where we want the bill to go we’re trying to keep in sync because him passing a bill to us and us amending it and passing it back, that’s a quick way to get this issue to go away," Kaufmann said, adding that he wants it to pass.
One thing Miller said he'll be watching for in the final bill is whether there's some sort of dedicated funding source to treat gambling disorders. That's something he says he didn't hear discussed in depth this week.
"Young people are at risk for developing gambling disorders and I think, my view is it’s really important to have dedicated monies directed toward prevention, treatment, research," Miller said. "It’s not enough to say, 'Hey, 1-800-BETS OFF.'"