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Iowa Backs Legalized Sports Betting

Written by:
Guest
Published on:
Feb/03/2010

(Associated Press) - A Senate subcommittee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill legalizing sports betting in Iowa, but even backers conceded they have a long way to go before such gambling is legal in the state.

The measure would allow betting on professional sports at the state's 17 casinos. It now advances to the full Senate State Government Committee.

"We've heard about sports betting since I was a pup," said 80-year-old Senate President Jack Kibbie, R-Emmetsburg. "It's already legal in many foreign countries. I'm just saying why not Iowa?"

The bill is among several gambling proposals being considered by lawmakers as they look to find money to close a budget shortfall estimated at $400 million or more. Gov. Chet Culver and the Democrats who hold majorities in the House and Senate have ruled out tax increases.

Kibbie said there aren't any firm estimates of how much money limited sports betting could generate, but some states considering the issue have projected revenues of as much as $100 million. That would depend in part on the level of taxes imposed on the wagering.

Kibbie argued that underground betting already is common in Iowa, and that the state misses out on potential tax collections.

The proposal faces an uphill battle in the Legislature and beyond.

Only four states -- Delaware, Nevada, Oregon and Montana -- had laws on the books allowing sports betting when Congress approved a ban on sports betting in 1992. Those state were allowed to continue, but others can't move on the issue unless Congress repeals that ban.

Legislative leaders are already pushing a plan that could generate an additional $25 million by charging casinos a fee to avoid referendums now required to maintain their licenses. The proposal also allows an expansion of areas in casinos where gambling is allowed.

Critics said they were leery of expanding gambling, considering how many options already were available in Iowa.

"We've got ample gambling in this state," said Sen. James Seymour, R-Woodbine. "I'm opposed to expanded gambling."

Seymour, who voted for the plan in the subcommittee meeting, said he might oppose it later.

 

 

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