New legislation introduced in Iowa attempts to authorize esports wagering for Iowa sportsbooks.
Iowa casinos pushed for the bill and found a sponsor in Rep. Bobby Kaufmann.
Kaufmann also sponsored the 2019 legislation that legalized sports betting in Iowa.
This bill simply amends that law to add “electronic sports events” as an authorized sporting event for wagering.
The legislation also allows for wagering on “sports-related events” such as professional sports drafts and individual player awards.
Pandemic sparked wagering interest in esports
Interest in esports wagering grew last spring when major sporting events shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Esports could continue taking place in a socially distanced world, so casinos sought authorization to accept wagers.
Casinos and daily fantasy sports operators filed a request for the Iowa Gaming Association to allow wagering on esports.
However, while the IGA approved esports for fantasy sports in June, the casinos were denied.
The association explained that it was going off a legal opinion from the Iowa attorney general’s office.
Iowa’s law expressly allows esports as a “simulated game or contest” under the fantasy sports section. The sports betting section has no such language.
Iowa casinos seeking esports wagering
Following the IGA ruling, casinos asked the legislature for clarification regarding esports.
Wes Ehrecke, the president of the Iowa Casino Association, said:
“Legalizing esports wagering got overlooked when they passed the sports betting bill. There’s a great deal of interest in esports. We want to add them as an amenity for people who enjoy that sector.”
House Study Bill 200 got referred to the House State Government Committee chaired by Kaufmann. A subcommittee will hear the bill Wednesday.
The bill defines esports to mean “a multiplayer video game event governed by a recognized professional, international, or collegiate video gaming body.” It prohibits wagering on esports participants under the age of 18.
Ehrecke expressed optimism that this will be a non-controversial proposal that can quickly move through the legislative process.