A fifth Senate subcommittee was held regarding sports wagering and fantasy sports. Democrat Sen. Tony Bisignano did not sign the bill out of subcommittee because he didn’t like the fact so many unknowns were involved in terms of structure in the bill.
The bill will move to the Ways and Means Committee if it advances out of the State Government Committee.
“This committee has worked hard, it’s worked together, it’s worked with the stakeholders,” Bisignano said. “The state has no other reason to care about sports betting other than revenue. It’s going to go to a committee that hasn’t had any input on any of these bills and probably hasn’t had much communication with many of you who have stake in this.
“I’ve never seen a bill backed into this place like this one is doing with Ways and Means. I will not be signing the subcommittee report because it’s an incomplete bill. I don’t mind working towards the completion, but there are some things that are mandatory with me for my support and that is this committee sets the fees and the license and the tax.”
Senate Study Bill 1168 was filed by Sen. Roby Smith. It’s a large bill that can be found here.
Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of Iowa Gaming Association, represents 19 casinos. He said all 19 are completely unified in support of the bill.
Christopher Rants, who represents Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and PGA Tour said those groups are opposed to the bill.
He said the bill fails to address the three goals his clients hoped any sports wagering bill would include. Those three goals are ensuring a fair game for the players (those who bet), it would crush the black market immediately and it would ensure both leagues and regulators that tools are in place to figure out any potential corruption.
Brad Epperly of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association and Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants said the groups are registered undecided, but are disappointed. He said he wants the product to be available across all 99 counties.
“Iowa is unique in that we have four companies not only founded her, but they still call this their home office,” Epperly said. “They’re regional companies. They weren’t asking for much, they just wanted to be a little part of it.”
This bill would involve an app. Epperly expressed concern about that aspect as well.
The consensus was there were many holes left to fill.
Greg Baker of The Family Leader Foundation spoke against the bill.
“For some (gambling) is quite dangerous,” Baker said. “For those, some studies show up to 40 percent of casinos’ revenues come from those individuals.”
Baker was pleased the 1-800-BETS-OFF number would be required on advertisements and on the app. But, he warned, there would be victims of the legalization of sports betting.
“We know about people, it’s not just going to impact the individual,” Baker said. “It’s going to impact the family, it’s going to impact the community. Because we are a people that live in community, it’s not as isolated as ‘my personal choice.’ It does have a greater community effect.”
Chuck Hurley, also of The Iowa Family Leader Foundation, spoke in opposition.
“In 1991 when I came into the legislature, gambling was being talked about a lot,” he said. “There was a big push for expansion.”
He said he realized as judiciary chair that if he and another person entered into a friendly wager on what time the subcommittee would end, depending on the amount of the bet, they could end up doing 10 years in prison.
“Frankly that kind of surprised me that kind of criminal penalty was in our code,” Hurley said. “I just checked 30 minutes ago and it’s still in there.”
Hurley appealed to religious reasons to oppose the measure as well.
“Jesus commanded to love your neighbor, gambling meanwhile is predicated on the losses, pain and suffering of our neighbors,” he said. “For one to win at gambling, others must lose.”
Gambling addiction puts families at increased risk for divorce, bankruptcy, child abuse, domestic violence, crime and suicide, he said.
“More than 15 million Americans are already struggling with a gambling problem,” he said. “And the number grows as gambling expands.”
Hurley noted those with incomes under $10,000 spend more on lottery tickets every year than any other income group. High school dropouts spend four times as much as college graduates.
“You look around the room tonight and these are hard-working, smart lobbyists who know the value of hard work,” Hurley said. “It’s not the people in this room that are going to be hurt by gambling expansion. The people in this room are going to be benefitted by gambling expansion. I beg you to think outside the box of this room before you vote. I beg you to think about the people who will suffer divorce, suicide, embezzlement and so forth because of gambling expansion.”
God ordained government to protect the welfare of its people, Hurley said. State-sanctioned gambling does the opposite of that.
“I just want you to consider your role as government leaders in how this bill will impact the least of these.”
Republican Sen. Dan Dawson said it’s hard to unring the bell in Iowa relating to gambling. He said he received more calls and emails on the issue last year when the Supreme Court issued its ruling on the issue of sports betting.
“I think Iowans would like to see this move forward,” he said. “I think Iowans will appreciate the fantasy aspect too.”
Smith said Bisignano would indeed have a chance to craft the bill as it will have to be debated on the floor even after it makes it out of Ways and Means. If the subcommittee would set the rates in the bill, Smith said Ways and Means could undo all of it.
“I have an open door at my desk,” he said. “Anybody can come up to me and talk about this bill. Because of the funnel, because of that self-imposed deadline, we need to continue to move this bill through the process.”