Chad Millman of The Action Network stops by to help you place your bets heading into the NFL’s Conference Championship games.
Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino on Wednesday announced it has entered into a partnership with William Hill U.S. to operate the casino’s sports book should gambling on sporting events officially become legal in Iowa.
The casino is constructing an 8,600-square-foot sports book on the fourth floor, near the horse racing center, as part of a larger remodeling project. The area will include a bar and state-of-the-art video wall where people can view sporting events and live betting odds.
Prairie Meadows is the first of Iowa’s 19 commercial casinos to formally announce a sports betting partnership and sports book plans since the U.S. Supreme Court in May struck down a federal ban on sports wagering in most states.
“We think it’s an exciting proposition,” Prairie Meadows President and CEO Gary Palmer said. “There’s unbelievable interest.”
Sports betting, which was only legal in Nevada before last spring’s Supreme Court decision, has now been legalized in eight states. Some legislators have spoken favorably about the prospect of legalizing it in Iowa, though some have cautioned that any system would need to be properly regulated.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, plans to introduce legislation within the next two weeks to legalize the gaming.
Kaufmann chairs the House State Government Committee, which would consider any sports wagering legislation proposed in the Iowa House. He said he plans to hold a subcommittee meeting on the topic by the end of January.
“I’m not going to say it’s unanimous, but I’ve had a lot of (legislators) come to me favorable and not nearly as many coming to me unfavorable,” he said.
Some Democrats said they are open to supporting legislation, but they want to be sure safeguards are in place.
“Here’s how I kind of look at it: If it’s coming and it’s here and we have gaming in the state of Iowa, it’s better to get ahead of it and control some of the provisions of it and where the money is going to go and how the state of Iowa can benefit from it,” said Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha.
Mathis said she wants to see some specifics about where the revenue would go. Some money should go to counseling for gambling addiction, she said.
Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, also said he would support legislation with some conditions.
“We’ve got to make sure that it’s regulated properly, that we have enough safeguards in there, that some 14-year-old kid can’t go in there and all of a sudden use dad’s credit card and rack up a thousand dollars’ worth of betting on it,” he said.
While campaigning for the governor’s race in September, Gov. Kim Reynolds said, “there are a lot of questions to be answered,” about what sports betting could look like in Iowa.
“What we are doing is working with the Legislature, working with the different agencies to see what that would look like and how it would be implemented,” she said at the time.
More on sports gambling possibly becoming legal in Iowa
Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, who chairs the Senate State Government Committee, said he believes sports betting can be legalized this year.
“We’re going to take input from Iowans, we’re going to take input from our constituents, from senators, and we’re going to start the process, as far as a bill,” he said.
Wes Ehrecke, president of the Iowa Gaming Association, said the Iowa Gaming Association supports legislation that would legalize sports betting through casinos for all professional and college events.
He said sports betting would bring in “nominal” revenue for the state.
Founded in the United Kingdom in 1934, William Hill is the largest sports book operator in the U.S. The company currently operates in New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island and serves as the exclusive risk manager for the sports lottery in Delaware.
William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher said in a news release that the company is “thrilled” to partner with Prairie Meadows and build a sports book that will make it “the place” the bet on and watch games.
Prairie Meadows’ Palmer said the casino plans to complete construction of the betting area by the second week of February. It would be ready to open as soon as the Legislature passes a bill and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission writes the rules, he said.
“Whatever time that takes, we’ll be ready for it,” he said.
If Iowa legislators fail to pass sports betting legislation, Palmer said the casino will use the remodeled space as a horse racing simulcast area.
Meanwhile, Ehrecke said the state’s other casinos are exploring and negotiating deals.
“Prairie Meadows is at the forefront here,” he said. “But they are all in various phases of negotiation and looking at what a sports book might look like.”
Reporter Barbara Rodriguez contributed to this article.
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