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Iowa Legalizes Sports Wagering

October 1, 2019

In August, the state of Iowa legalized sports gambling. It came just 15 months after the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which outlawed sports gambling everywhere besides Nevada. Iowa became the 11th state to have legalized sports gambling after New Jersey became the first state outside of Nevada to do it in August of 2018. 


Wes Ehrecke, the president of the Iowa Gaming Association, told the Des Moines Register, “We have another entertainment option to enjoy watching sports by betting on them, and we can let players do that in retail and mobile environments.” There are currently 19 brick and mortar sportsbooks in the state, with mobile betting options coming in the near future. Wellknown worldwide bookmakers such as William Hill and Casers operate a majority of the properties.  


In Council Bluffs, the Ameristar hotel and casino opened their sportsbook on Aug. 15. A few days later, both Harrah’s and Horsehoe opened their sportsbooks. Ameristar General Manager Paul Czak told KETV, “It’s really exciting for everybody. It will be good for our guests who come all the time and are looking for something new.” 


In the second half of August, the Iowa Gaming Commision reported a total handle of $8,576,245.68 across the state, including the $1,364,722.80 handled by the Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs. The casinos won $2,161,687.53, and the state took in $145,914.53 as a tax. 


Many people in Nebraska think the cornhusker state should also legalize sports betting. Former University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds told KETV, “The state of Iowa, through gambling revenue, spends a lot of money on refurbishing facilities at its universities.” He thinks that money could be used towards helping the university system, which has had to deal with budget cuts in recent years.  


Opponents of legalized sports gambling say it will increase the amount of people in poverty, and it is not morally acceptable for states to encourage such behavior. They also fear a majority of the money generated through gambling will go to help people who are obsessed gamblers.   


Proponents of the legislation believe it will help the state money-wise, and point to Europe as an example for how many people do it regularly. They also think many people already offshore illegally, so the government needs to provide those people with a legal and safer way to gamble. 


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