Iowa lawmakers voted last week to outlaw credit card deposits at the state’s still-nascent casino sportsbooks.
The decision, not unique on its face but distinct in its approach, resides at the center of a debate over cashless wagers in the sports gambling industry.
You can read the bill here, which still must be signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds to become law. Both chambers of the legislature voted overwhelmingly for the bill.
Regulators had not approved the use of credit cards for wagering, but the bill would make that decision permanent.
‘This body has spoken’
Prohibiting credit cards was touted by state officials as something that will limit problem gambling.
“If you want (to) lose your paycheck, that’s fine. I don’t know how long you get away with that from your family, but with a credit card, you can run a debt that can’t possibly be paid and so I thank the body for clarifying that,” Iowa State Sen. Tony Bisignano told local media.
“We never did legalize it, but it got to be interpreted by fantasy sports that they have been using credit cards and this body has spoken.”
Even if the aversion to credit is not new, the legislature’s decision to ban credit cards for sports wagering is odd, considering most states typically leave the decision up to regulators or others in the gaming industry.
The ban would apply both to physical sportsbooks and online sports betting in Iowa.
While credit remains on the outs, cashless grows in Vegas
The nation’s sports gambling capital could soon turn the tide on cashless gaming, if not immediately, its approach to credit cards.
It’s a trend that in the coming years may affect states like Iowa.
The Nevada Gaming Commission, less than a month after reopening Las Vegas casinos, will on June 25 hold a public hearing to consider allowing “electronic transfers of money to a game or gaming device,” according to Gaming Today.
While the meeting’s agenda is vague, experts anticipate the move would allow electronic transfers for mobile wagering and debit cards or digital wallets when placing wagers at physical sportsbooks.
The use of credit cards would remain prohibited.
Nonetheless, signs of cashless expansion have drawn preemptive strikes from opponents who say using credit cards at casinos can cause problems.
“We feel cashless is not cut and dried,” Brianne Doura-Schawohl, legislative director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, told Gaming Today.
“The UK just recently banned the use of credit cards predicated on problem gambling. Some 22% of them who used credit cards met the criteria for gambling addiction, so we have reservations. We love to see more data and research in the US.”
Opponents of credit, like Doura-Schawohl, often speak out against cashless gaming, specifically credit. They say the option can exacerbate gaming addictions if protections like time and money limits are not in place.
Others say cashless deposits are a more realistic approach to sports gambling in 2020, especially following the creation of digital programs already equipped with pre-set spending limits.
In pandemic age, could cashless forms thrive?
The decision to prohibit credit was not a surprise to Iowa’s casino industry.
“I can tell you that I don’t believe that any of the operators are anticipating allowing credit at this point in time,” Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission administrator Brian Ohorilko told the The Gazette, Cedar Rapids’ leading daily paper, in 2019.
Adding a new layer of complication, however, is the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many believe there is no sense in hand-to-hand cash transactions when, just feet away, casino workers are rushing to disinfect each surface touched by visitors.
Advocates of cashless gaming say credit cards, debit cards and digital wallets would comfort gamblers already nervous about contracting the coronavirus. The approach, which is proven to be compatible with safeguards in other industries, could soon generate momentum to OK safe credit options alongside debit allowances.