Busy 2022 Legislative Session Could Lead To A Quiet 2023 For Iowa Gambling Policy

Written By Russ Mitchell on May 26, 2022 - Last Updated on July 22, 2022
2022 Legislative Session

The Iowa gambling industry picked up a lot of wins in the 2022 legislative session, so the docket a year from now could be a little quiet, according to Wes Ehrecke.

The president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association (IGA) told PlayIA to check back in the fall. But, he doesn’t anticipate as much casino-driven policy work in 2023.

Ehrecke’s comments suggest the IGA may not make a hard lobbying push to add online casino game betting in 2023. Lawmakers considered an online casino bill early on in the 2022 session, but it died at the committee level in February.

“Any bill can be introduced just like it was this year, but to have it advance, things would have to change among my members,” Ehrecke told PlayIA. “Because right now, we’ve got about 66% of them in favor of doing something and a third of them are not. We’ll see what evolves with that. I don’t envision that bill having the unified support of our industry. But things can and do change.”

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann chairs the House State Government Committee. He told PlayIA in February that an online casino bill won’t find momentum until Iowa’s brick-and-mortar casinos get behind it.

“We need to get all the casinos on board. Until that happens, the chances of it passing are zero.”

What is Iowa missing out on? March sports bets vs. online casino betting

For context and comparison, we took a snapshot of sports betting and online casino numbers from states in the PlayUSA network. Keep in mind, March is a strong month for sports bets nationally because of the NCAA Tournament.

StateMarch sports betsMarch online casino
New Jersey$1.1 billion$141 million
Pennsylvania$715 million$143 million
Michigan$475 million$130 million
Iowa$233.5 millionNone

A busy 2022 legislative session could mean a quiet 2023

Lawmakers faced an April 19 deadline to wrap up work for the 2022 legislative session. An impasse over private-school scholarships threatened to derail policy efforts including some improvements requested by the IGA. The gambling bill stayed on course, however.

“Until they adjourn, you always have an opportunity to hopefully get things passed. And that’s what happened here,” Ehrecke said.

More from the 2022 legislative session

Are cashless wagers en route to the casino floor?

If you don’t like to carry cash onto the casino floor, there could be an approved app for betting soon.

The Iowa Legislature signed off on eWallet use for customers on the casino floor as part of HF 2497. An eWallet allows customers to move money from a checking or savings account to a casino-compatible, secure money management app.

Casino employees or kiosks then scan your mobile device whenever you want to place a bet.

The bill adds convenience since ATMs are still barred from the casino floor. Some responsible gaming guardrails come with the new payment process.

  • The approved payment apps must market the 1-800-BETS-OFF hotline information from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
  • And, you still can’t use a credit card to load the casino eWallet account.

Customers can use the app to set a budget and schedule cooling down periods as well.

Fewer fines for casino operators

Lawmakers peeled back some penalties for casinos when they passed HF 2497 in the 2022 legislative session.

Currently, Iowa casinos check every casino customer’s win of $1,200 or more. Casinos must hold onto some or all of the windfall if they spot a state debt. A few examples are:

  • past fines
  • court costs
  • or overdue child support

Midway through the 2022 session, Ehrecke said:

“For about 11 years, we’ve collected well over $51 million dollars for the state. And, we’re going to continue to do that.”

Sometimes casino employees make an unintentional error. In other cases, the winning bettor uses someone else to cash out the win. HF 2497 removes the penalties for casinos.

The state can also fine casinos if someone from the industry’s voluntary self-exclusion program gets past security. If the governor signs the all-inclusive gambling bill, casinos won’t get fined.

“We’re going to continue to do those and do that proactively, Ehrecke recently said. “However, sometimes there’s an unintentional employee error when they’re processing these.”

HF 2497 removes some licensing requirements for casino employees who aren’t involved in betting transactions or security as well. The change should ease the hiring process for casinos.

“Right now I am just savoring this victory for the industry and the great work by the legislators who helped support this. We’ll focus on 2023 in the next couple of months,” Ehrecke said. He later added:

“We’ve had some good success. We need to appreciate and express that to the legislators — and we will.”

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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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