One of the most common, consistent points made by supporters of sports betting legalization has been tax revenue and the causes it can support.
That benefit was recently placed on display in Clinton County, which could join other Iowa counties in seeing gambling revenue boost emergency medical services.
With change, a possible bump for emergency workers
The Clinton Herald reported last week that the county’s development association was notified by the Iowa Gaming Association that a revenue-allocation shift could help fund EMS.
The memo reportedly described “proposed adjustments to the gaming code as adopted by law” and includes legislation that could distribute sports betting revenue to rural EMS across Iowa.
A timeline has yet to emerge for the proposal, although development officials were asked to describe recent EMS-related funding and allocations.
One county official said the IGA “talked about EMS grants” and argued that any grants could support the “entire structure” of volunteer and professional fire and EMS departments.
Grants would help a struggling industry
The possibility of sports gambling revenue being used to bolster EMS has emerged alongside a spotlight focused on the struggles emergency service providers are experiencing in rural Iowa.
Iowa Emergency Medical Services Association President Mark Sachen told RadioIowa this week that 75 percent of local departments are run by volunteers.
“I think we’re to the point now where the demands on the system are far exceeding the available resources available to provide those services,” he said about a situation that has included a recent decrease in registered EMTs.
RadioIowa pointed to Worth County, which has no ambulance services to cover its roughly 400 square miles.
Similar examples exist in other states
Other examples of sports gambling revenue helping the EMS community have been seen in areas outside Iowa during the spread of legalization.
One example is in Michigan. After legalizing sports betting in December, information was released showing the state’s expected $19 million in newfound revenue will be split between a school aid fund, firefighters and a fund dedicated to gambling addiction.
Fox66 in Michigan reported this month that roughly 75% will go to K-12 schools, while $4 million will be earmarked for firefighters who contract cancer as the result of chemical exposure.
A total of $1 million will be set aside to help treat problem gaming habits.
An easier sell for a controversial topic
Unsurprisingly, the landing spots for sports-gambling revenue have become major political talking points for officials across the country.
While some constituents remain either opposed or skeptical to the legalization of sports gambling, many politicians have been able to point to the increased revenue the activity draws as a way to further legitimize the change.
For instance, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during his budget address this month that sports gambling will help fund “badly needed maintenance and construction work at our universities, community colleges and state facilities,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
In Iowa, though, sports-gambling revenue doesn’t produce anywhere close to the revenue payout generated by taxes from casino gambling, which can total around $300 million per year.
Numbers collected by Legal Sports Report found that Iowa has generated $1.3 million in sports-betting revenue since August 2019.
“Every bit helps but industry was honest about this, it’s not for the state to get a lot of revenue,” Drake University professor Keith Miller told Iowa Public Radio.