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As Iowa legislators debate whether to legalize online casinos, a bill proposed by an Iowa lawmaker could create the ability for Iowans to play games of chance from their own homes – but with powerful interests working against it, the bill is unlikely to pass in 2023. Iowa offers various gaming options, giving players multiple ways to enjoy.
There are twenty-three casinos across the state - four Native American and 19 licensed by the state. Unfortunately, though (for now at least), online casino gambling is still not permitted in the Hawkeye State.
Iowa has been actively pursuing the legalization of online gaming for a few years. In May 2019, Iowa passed SF617, officially welcoming online and retail sports betting in the state. This bill was followed by the launch of online and in-person sports betting in August 2019.
Online casino gaming is currently only legal in six states, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Players must be located within the state borders and of legal gambling age to gamble online legally in these states. Additionally, all sites must be licensed by the state's gaming commission and comply with all regulations set forth by the state.
Recently, State Representative Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) introduced House Study Bill 227, which seeks to expand gambling in Iowa to include iGaming through interactive slots and table games. This is not the first time Kaufmann has filed a bill of this kind, as he introduced a similar bill during the state's 2022 legislative session. HSB227 continues Kaufmann's quest to spark a conversation about whether or not the state should broaden its gambling options to include iGaming, featuring interactive slot machines and table games.
Kaufmann's iGaming bill proposes that licensed casinos in the state would be authorized by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to operate interactive slots and table games online. Only existing casinos would be eligible to operate online gaming, and each casino would need to pay a $45,000 iGaming fee upfront and renew their license annually at $10,000.
They could also operate up to two "skins" or online gaming platforms. HSB227 also requires that licensees provide players with important problem gambling information and comprehensive responsible gaming features in their online offerings.
The most significant opposition to legalizing online gaming comes from local casinos and other gambling establishments. These businesses are concerned that they will lose customers if online gaming is legalized, as people may stay home and gamble instead of visiting their establishments. They also worry about increased competition from out-of-state operators who may offer better deals or more attractive bonuses than they can provide.
Another major roadblock is the need for more regulation surrounding online gaming. Currently, there is no set of laws explicitly addressing online gambling in Iowa, meaning that it would be difficult for regulators to ensure that players are treated fairly and not taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators. Additionally, there are concerns about underage gambling and money laundering if online gaming were to become legal in the state.
Finally, some opponents argue that legalizing online gaming could increase problem gambling among Iowans. This is a legitimate concern, as research has shown that individuals who gamble online tend to spend more money than those who visit physical casinos or betting shops.
While there are concerns from local casinos and opponents about increased competition and potential problem gambling, Kaufmann's bill could pave the way for Iowa to join the six other states currently legalizing online gaming. Until then, players can still enjoy all the excitement of gambling at Iowa's many physical casinos.