Iowa Legislature Ends Year; Gambling Changes Head To Governor’s Desk

Written By Russ Mitchell on May 25, 2022 - Last Updated on May 26, 2022
gambling changes

It looks like Iowa gambling changes will reach the governor’s desk after all.

The Iowa House and Iowa Senate agreed to amendments and passed the state’s all-in-one gambling bill on Monday. The chambers gaveled out the 2022 legislative session just after midnight on Wednesday.

The Iowa Senate passed HF 2497 on a 35-11 vote. Iowa House members passed the gambling bill with 60-23 support. The gambling legislation bounced back and forth between the chambers as lawmakers scrambled to wrap up work before the Memorial Day weekend.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has the gambling bill now and it included some surprises:

A two-year moratorium on new casino licenses

Linn County voters signed off on Cedar Rapids casino efforts in the November 2021 city/county election cycle. With a yes vote in hand, developers were even putting together a proposal for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) to review this summer.

Keep the slot machines unplugged in Iowa’s second-largest city for now. Iowa’s anti-gambling base and eastern Iowa’s established casinos (who want to preserve market share) nudged lawmakers for a pause. They crafted a section of HF 2497 to lock in the state’s current casino count for two years.

The moratorium caught Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell and state Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D-Cedar Rapids) by surprise.

See: Governor could shelve Cedar Rapids casino bid until 2024

Also: 2022 was a busy session for gambling policy. Does that kill chances for online casino in 2023?

Your Iowa sportsbooks might add new bets …

Even with the governor’s signature, HF 2497 won’t be in place in time to bet on Iowa standout forward Keegan Murray’s spot in the June 23 NBA Draft. But pro sports draft bets could debut as a betting option starting July 1.

If the governor likes HF 2497, Iowa sportsbooks can start taking award bets too. That includes Cy Young winners, the Heisman Trophy recipient or future Super Bowl MVPs.

One last wrinkle allows Iowa bettors to wager on a wider range of charity golf results. The new option might include celebrity participants in The Match golf event over Thanksgiving weekend.

… but esports won’t be one of the Iowa gambling changes

One of Monday’s HF 2497 amendments removed multi-player pro, college or international esports as a potential betting option in Iowa. That means Iowa sportsbooks still can’t offer bets on “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” or “League of Legends” competitions.

The House version of the bill included gamer bets as lawmakers arrived back in Des Moines on Monday.

The Iowa Senate used an amendment to remove the option, however. The amendments sent the bill back to the Iowa House, where its members agreed to the edit.

Iowa Gaming Association President and CEO Wes Ehrecke explained the change:

“There was seemingly a fair amount of opposition expressed by groups that are opposed to gaming in general. They felt that this was going to be creating more addiction for younger people. It was just important, as part of a bigger bill, to take out a contentious issue.”

Pari-mutuel gambling changes reach the governor, too

One of the Iowa gambling changes unfolded in Dubuque instead of Des Moines. And it had an impact on horseracing and out-of-state greyhound bets.

Now that racing is over at Iowa Greyhound Park, the Iowa Greyhound Association’s license won’t facilitate pari-mutuel betting at partner casinos around the state. Most casinos are on their own as of June 30.

Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino has its own license, as does Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino, which hosted live races in the past.

But the Wild Rose Casino locations in Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson offered the betting option through Iowa Greyhound Park’s license. HF 2497 gives all casinos in Iowa another option.

Pending the governor’s signature and IRGC approval, casinos can partner with the Iowa Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) for a license instead.

IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko told PlayIA:

“This effectively just replaces the role of the Iowa Greyhound Association with respect to simulcasting at casinos.”

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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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