Posted on: March 16, 2023, 08:36h.
Last updated on: March 16, 2023, 12:30h.
An Iowa iGaming measure has been introduced in the Des Moines capital for a second consecutive year. But similar to last year’s legislative session, state lawmakers aren’t seeking to allow online slot machines and table games anytime soon.
House Study Bill 227 was introduced earlier this month by state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton). The legislative vehicle is a clone of House Study Bill 604, which he filed during the state’s 2022 legislative session.
HSB227 carries on Kaufmann’s effort to initiate a meaningful discussion about whether the state should expand gambling to include iGaming in the form of interactive slot machines and table games.
Iowa is currently home to 19 riverboat and land-based casinos. Slots, tables, and sportsbooks are allowed to operate at the properties. Iowa additionally permits online sports betting.
HSB227 has been directed to the House Ways and Means Committee, which Kaufmann chairs. Kaufmann said he’s introducing the iGaming study bill simply to keep the conversation current. He says progress on an iGaming bill won’t occur until there’s a consensus among the state’s current gaming operators.
Kaufmann’s iGaming bill suggests allowing the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to authorize licensed casinos to operate interactive slots and table games online. Only the state’s current casinos would qualify to operate online gaming.
Each casino must pay an upfront $45K iGaming fee and renew the license annually at $10K. Under Kaufmann’s pitch, the casino would be allowed to operate up to two “skins,” or online gaming platforms. Kaufmann’s bill doesn’t suggest an effective tax rate for gross gaming revenue generated by online casinos.
Kaufmann revealed that — since he has no intention of moving the iGaming bill out of his Ways and Means Committee this year — he can hold a hearing on iGaming any time before the legislature is set to conclude its 2023 session in April.
The odds of expanding gaming in Iowa anytime soon are seemingly long. The state’s current licensed gaming interests only recently convinced state lawmakers to place a moratorium on new licenses. In June 2022, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a bill that prevents the state from approving new gaming projects until at least July 1, 2024.
The casino moratorium resulted from Iowa casinos lobbying state lawmakers to cap the market. The casinos argued that stability is needed in the wake of the pandemic and casinos opening in neighboring Nebraska. Iowa legalized online sports betting in 2019.
Over the last few years there’s been a lot of changes to our gaming laws in the state of Iowa,” said Senate Major Leader Jack Whitver (R-Polk). “So, there’s a little, maybe a lot, of gaming fatigue within the Capitol.”
Officials in Cedar Rapids opposed the casino freeze. A group of local business people has been trying since 2014 to gain state approval to build a $250 million casino resort. Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell wrote Reynolds asking her to veto the casino mortarium, to no avail.
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