In Iowa, state legislators are reportedly preparing legislation that could legalize fantasy sports wagering such as that offered by providers including DraftKings and FanDuel as soon as this year.
According to a report from The Gazette newspaper, Guy Vander Linden from the Iowa House Of Representatives is hoping to introduce a measure before the summer that would legalize wagering on fantasy sports with the Iowa Racing And Gaming Commission put in charge of licensing, investigating violations and levying fines and suspensions.
If subsequently passed by both houses of the Iowa General Assembly and signed into law by acting governor Kim Reynolds, the newspaper reported that the Oskaloosa Republican’s proposed legislation would see fantasy sports wagering providers pay a 7.5% revenue tax with the cash earmarked for the state’s infrastructure fund.
The Gazette reported that Vander Linden’s measure, which would also prohibit wagering on high school and college athletics and require players to be at least 21 years old, is “almost identical” to a bill proposed in 2015 and has already received support from FanDuel and DraftKings.
Vander Linden told the newspaper that a key hurdle was cleared last year when legislators decided and operators agreed that fantasy sports wagering should be treated as gambling rather than as a game of skill and regulated accordingly.
“We’ve been playing with this for a number of years,” 68-year-old Vander Linden told The Gazette. “We pretty much now all agree that we’re going to treat it [as] gambling, first of all. We’re going to treat it like all other gambling. We’re going to regulate it through the [Iowa] Racing And Gaming [Commission]. We’re going to tax it. People get out of line, [then] we will do away with it. We have gambling in Iowa. It’s just another form.”
Iowa State Senator Jeff Danielson told the newspaper that he supports Vander Linden’s legislation, which is being officially opposed by some social groups along with the Mystique Casino in Dubuque, so long as the regulations don’t become too onerous and put operators off providing games.
“I’m for freedom [and] economic opportunity and I believe fantasy sports are something that Iowans have come to accept,” the Waterloo Democrat told The Gazatte. “They do it. Most were unaware that it [is] not legal. So, I’m in favor of legalizing it. I think [operators] have been willing, as I have, to compromise as long as the essence of the game is still available. I support the bill as the [Iowa House Of Representatives] left it. I don’t know what will happen between now and then.”
The Gazette reported that there were 57.4 million people playing fantasy sports in the United States and Canada in 2015 with total wagers topping $1 billion. Iowa is currently one of ten states that have active legislation that would legalize the activity although a recent report from the Iowa Fiscal Services Agency estimated that Vander Linden’s measure would result in only around $578,000 a year for the infrastructure fund.
“Fantasy [sports wagering] is clearly an area where the state of Iowa can authorize it and legally do it and we will enjoy economic growth and the ability of like-minded Iowans to get together and participate,” 46-year-old Danielson told the newspaper.