Last year, the Supreme Court paved the way for every state in the country to legalize sports gambling.  As the practice becomes more popular, Iowa and South Dakota seem ready to make betting legal.
Sports betting was once considered a niche market confined mostly to Nevada. But, in recent years, the popularity of sports betting has exploded. 

Websites like FanDuel and DraftKings have popularized weekly fantasy betting. ESPN even has a segment devoted to betting. Last year the Supreme Court ruled any state in America can legalize sports gambling. Eight states have taken advantage of that ruling.  Iowa and South Dakota are considering bills that would follow suit. 

“I think the consensus has been building for years and I think one of the things preventing a bill from becoming law in recent years was the fact that we knew that a Supreme Court ruling might come down and we didn’t want to preempt them and do something that would then be nullified and the groundwork that was laid these last few years,” said Iowa State Rep. Bobby Kauffman.

Casinos like the Hard Rock Sioux City are excited at the possibility of legal sports gambling.  “It’s gonna have a positive impact for all the casinos and the state of Iowa, I think there have been 8 states that have passed legislation since the Supreme Court allowed it back in May of 18. Those properties that have sports betting have seen increases in both gaming and non-gaming revenues,” said Hard Rock Casino General Manager Jim Franke.

The Iowa Gaming Commission is also in favor of the change. They plan to roll out mobile and online gambling.  “We believe it should be for all professional and collegiate sports including in-state games, as well as having a mobile component so if you’re age 21 or older, you can come into a casino, prove you’re 21, establish an account, and then place bets on a smartphone or laptop anywhere within the state,” said Iowa Gaming Association CEO Wes Ehrecke. 

Franke added, “We want to make sure that we bring in sports gambling legally and a convenient way to do it and a mobile application will help us do that.”  While bettors and casino owners may welcome the change, organizations like Jackson Recovery want everyone to know the risks associated with gambling, and how it can lead to addiction.

“This has become more socially acceptable, and when we look at younger people and the games that they’re playing, a lot of times there’s almost a crossover form the gaming into problem gambling,” said RoxAnn Smith of Jackson Recovery Center.

RoxAnn Smith is a Prevention Specialist at Jackson Recovery. She’s most worried about young people. “One thing that we know through research is the fastest growing population that is experiencing gambling problems is our youth,” added Smith.

According to Jackson Recovery, 1% of Iowans have a gambling addiction. While 1% may not sound like a lot, Smith points out that represents more than 31 thousand people. She says if gambling becomes legal and more convenient, that number could rise.

“It’s just so easily accessible, and it’s just so easy to hide, that no one even knows you’re doing it,” said Smith. The Hard Rock thinks that the benefits of this change outweigh any potential negatives.

“I think being able to allow our citizens to bet in a legal environment is a benefit for them and for the state,” said Franke.  But, until the Iowa and South Dakota Legislatures pass a bill legalizing sports betting, it remains only a possibility.