Iowa State Senate Approves Real Money Daily Fantasy Sports Betting
Real-money daily fantasy sports is one step closer to being legal in Iowa after the State Senate approved a bill on Wednesday. The upper house of the Iowa legislature voted 32-16 on Senate File 166, which would legalize DFS gambling in the state.
Currently, 45 U.S. states have legal and regulated online daily fantasy sports. Most of the brand name DFS websites on the Internet block Iowa ISP addresses. If the bill is passed in the House, then the daily fantasy sites should begin to accept Iowa gamblers in short order. Presently, the United States federal government allows daily fantasy sports, under provisions of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
House of Representatives Next
With the successful vote, proponents of one-day fantasy sports move the matter to the Iowa House of Representatives. House File 281, which would regulate daily fantasy in the state, is almost identity to Senate File 166.
The bill that passed the senate was amended to assure that fantasy contests could not be staged on high school sporting events. The bill reads, “For purposes of this paragraph, “athlete” does not include an athlete participating in any extracurricular interscholastic athletic contest or competition which is sponsored or administered by an organization as defined in section 280.13.”
High School Betting Is Banned
The section of the statute deals with interscholastic athletics. Lawmakers were concerned not only with the pressure put on athletes to perform on behalf of gamblers. If such gaming existed, high school students who did not perform might become targets of derision or violence by gamblers who lost a bet.
Lawmakers also were concerned with match-fixing and point-shaving issues. Because high school students either work low-paying jobs or do not work at all, they might become perfect targets for game-fixers who wanted to bribe athletes to throw a game. The legislature thought it was altogether a bad idea to have the outcome of bets on teenagers.
Jeff Danielson Championed the Bill
State Senator Jeff Danielson, the Chairman of the Senate Government Committee, opened remarks on the Senate floor with a defense of the bill. He said that the Iowa bill aligns with the UIGEA act.
Danielson also suggested that DFS is a game of skill and not a game of chance, like sports betting is. In making his suggestion, the state senator said that the bill should be filed under the “social gaming code” and not gambling law.
As to the state of the Iowa legal statutes on the matter, Danielson said, “We are currently in legal limbo. We have never really clearly defined what fantasy sports are in Iowa.”
Opposed or Ambivalent Senators
Sixteen of the senators voted agains the bill and several others voiced concerns. Most of the concerns, involved the idea that daily fantasy sports legalization is an expansion of gambling in the state.
Sen. Julian Garrett challenged Danielson’s contention that one-day fantasy contests are a game of skill. He said, “I do know enough to know, that no matter how much skill you think you have, how much time you spend studying these matters, things don’t always go the way you might think … I will concede there may be a certain amount of skill involved here, but I don’t think you can legitimately say that there’s no chance, no gamble involved.”
Game of Skill or Chance?
Sen. Garrett sounded like an experienced yearly fantasy football owner. Those who play in their local fantasy leagues know that injuries, team dynamics, match-ups, weather conditions, weekly scheduling, and play calling all play a factor in the outcome of fantasy contests. Fantasy owners tend to view their games as skill when they win, but bad luck when they lose. The truth probably lies somewhere in-between.
Ultimately, that is the truth Jeff Danielson is trying to raise. Long time fantasy sports gamblers know that some owners are simply better at player evaluation and prognostication than others. A consistent pattern forms over time, though individual contests might deviate. Professional DFS gamblers are known to exist, who can consistently win at their game.
Expansion of Gambling or Not?
Sen. Tony Bisignano gave his qualified support of the measure, but made a prediction about the future of the industry. Bisignano said in deliberations, “I will support this bill with a lot of caution, and a lot of anticipation of the future. We’re going to be back here, we’re going to be looking at changes, we’re going to be looking at expansions.”
Sen. Jason Schultz was more definitive in his comments when he said, “This is an expansion of Iowa gambling.“