Despite its ultimate demise, Iowa Representative Bobby Kaufmann has once again introduced a bill to legalize online casinos. For the third straight year, Kaufmann is pessimistic his online casino legislation will pass the General Assembly.
But that’s OK, Kaufmann told PlayUSA.
“It’s a multiyear effort. I wanted to get it through subcommittee as a step forward from last year, but that’s the furthest I expect it to go. I just wanted to get the public engaged and get some media attention so we can continue to push the topic and debate forward.”
Kaufmann hopes to hold hearing on bill before session ends
Iowa boasts 19 retail casinos, five of which also offer pari-mutuel betting. Unfortunately, Iowa online casinos are still a pipe dream, despite the state adding online sports betting in 2019.
Kaufmann’s most recent effort to legalize online casinos in Iowa, House Study Bill 227, is currently sitting in the House Ways and Means Committee. The session of the Iowa General Assembly ends April 28.
It’s already too late for HSB 227 to pass, but Kaufmann, who strongly pushed Iowa sports betting to passage, simply wants to keep the subject on the minds of his fellow legislators and the public. He hopes to hold a hearing on the bill before the session ends.
The details of HSB 227 are the same as the legislation introduced in previous years.
- Licenses for all 19 existing parimutuel racetracks or excursion gambling boats or structures
- Includes an initial $45,000 licensing fee and renewal fee of $10,000 each year
- Each licensee can offer up to two branded mobile apps
- Provides the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission flexibility to authorize a third skin
HSB 227 faces major roadblocks
Right now, there are two major obstacles blocking the passage of HSB 227.
Several issues take priority at General Assembly
First, there are several other pieces of legislation that carry a higher priority right now. They include tax cuts, education, Medicaid privatization, and abortion.
There are just too many hot-button issues before lawmakers this session to consider online casinos, Wes Ehrecke, executive director of the Iowa Gaming Association, told PlayUSA.
“This just isn’t the year to try to pursue anything like that. There’s some very significant non-gaming issues that the governor and others have on their agenda and a lot of newly elected legislators. Nothing will happen on that front or any gaming issue, I would think. With a Legislature that has a lot of new legislators and some other major priority issues, it just makes sense not to come forward with anything. We’ll have efforts to continue to heighten awareness of the benefits the gaming industry brings to the state and build relationships with these new elected officials.”
Casinos not on board
The second obstacle for HSB 227 is a lack of support from state-regulated casinos.
Matthew Kredell of PlayUSA outlined the problem to PlayIowa.
“Really, the holdup in Iowa is that not all casinos are on board with iGaming. Churchill Downs particularly has expressed concerns with cannibalization. Rep. Kaufmann is keeping the issue fresh and out there but has said that it will not move until the casinos make the push together. That could happen in the next couple of years as the economy changes.”
Some casinos think online casinos could take dollars out of their pockets. Players may prefer playing from home instead of visiting casinos. It should be noted that retail casinos would be able to offer online gaming.
It will take time, Kaufmann told PlayUSA.
“We need to get all the casinos on board. Until that happens, the chances of it passing are zero.”