Local senators split on sports wagering bill

'Before, it was happening under a rock'

A plan to legalize sports betting in Iowa has been approved by the state Senate, with one of the senators serving Webster County supporting it and the other opposing it.

State Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, voted for the bill when it cleared the Senate on a 31-18 vote Wednesday.

State Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, voted against it.

“Now at least we can regulate it,” Kraayenbrink said Thursday afternoon.

“Before, it was happening under a rock and we didn’t know when it was happening or who was doing it,” he added. “Now, we’re able to track it.”

Behn could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Legalized sports betting is projected to produce between $2 million and $4 million in revenue for the state government annually.

“It’s not a huge revenue booster,” Kraayenbrink said.

He said the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that earmarks the first $300,000 the state receives from sports betting every year for gambling treatment programs.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it could be considered as soon as Monday.

“The Senate bill was an agreement between the Senate and the House, so we will not change it when it gets over here,” said state Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City. “We will vote it up or down the way it is.”

Sexton said he plans to vote for it, and added that he believes there is enough support in the House to pass it.

“I also believe there is enough support in the House to pass,” said state Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge.

Under the Senate bill, someone who is at least 21 years old could open an account at an Iowa casino and then place bets on sporting events.

Those bets would be placed in person at a casino or by using an app on a smartphone.

For the first 18 months of legalized sports wagering, people would have to go a casino to open such an account. After that time, the ability to open accounts online should be available.

After opening that account, an individual could place bets on intercollegiate and professional sports, including auto racing.

They could not place bets on minor league sports.

Bets on the performance of individual athletes at Iowa colleges and universities would also be illegal. That means, for example, that bets could not be made on how many free throws a University of Iowa basketball player can make.

Casinos would pay a 6.75 percent tax on their profits from sports wagering.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission would hire three additional employees to regulate sports wagering.