Gov. Reynolds, legalizing sports betting is a bad deal for Iowa

You can’t buy solutions to addiction

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has an opportunity to prevent a lot of heartache for many people.

The Legislature has sent her a bill that would legalize sports betting in the state.

Reynolds hasn’t said if she’ll sign it.

We urge a veto.

Making sports betting legal in Iowa will just make it easier for more people to fall into the trap of gambling addiction. The end results of that will be bankruptcies, lost jobs, divorces and all kinds of other personal turmoil.

Why should we in Iowa enact a law that makes it easier for all of that to happen?

Already, a portion of Iowa’s population is suffering from the effects of gambling addiction. There is a hotline, 1-800-BETS-OFF, that Iowans can call for help with problem gambling. In 2000, the company that operated the hotline received 300 to 400 crisis calls a month.

That company, Consumer Credit of Des Moines, has performed debt counseling for more than 150,000 people in the past 30 years. According to Tom Coates, the executive director and co-founder of the company, between 4 and 10 percent of those people were problem gamblers.

Yes, we know that sports betting happens illegally right now. But making it legal, and thus more accessible, makes no sense considering the havoc this kind of wagering can cause.

Then there’s a possibility that newly legalized sports wagering will generate new interest in the practice and actually drive more business to illegal bookmaking operations.

Casinos that would accommodate the new sports betting would pay a 6.75 percent tax on their profits from sports betting.

That’s estimated to generate $2 million to $4 million annually for the state, with the first $300,000 going to help pay for gambling treatment programs.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission will hire three new employees to oversee the sports betting.

It’s not clear where the rest of that revenue will go.

Does it matter? The fact is, the extra $2 million to $4 million isn’t worth it.

Let’s put it more bluntly: You can’t buy solutions to addiction. Even if more than $300,000 would be allocated for the treatment of gambling addiction, the bargain is a bad one because money isn’t a cure.

Legalizing sports betting would create a problem that everyone is betting can pay for its own fix.

Gov. Reynolds, that’s a bad deal for Iowa.