The five-member board that oversees the Iowa Lottery has directed lottery staff to “explore…the feasibility” of having Iowa retailers use lottery terminals for sports betting.
Sports betting has been legal in the State of Nevada for decades, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May overturned a federal law which had prohibited legalized sports betting in other states. On June 5, Delaware began offering full-scale sports betting in casinos along with a more limited sports lottery in retail locations.
“In the last month, we’ve heard from several of the lottery’s largest retail organizations who have said that if sports betting is legalized in Iowa, they want the option of offering it as a product in their locations,” Neubauer said today during the lottery board’s meeting.
Scientific Games, the company that helps run Delaware’s sports lottery, also has the service contract for Iowa Lottery terminals that handle play slips and print lottery tickets.
“Given the expertise involved, we fully anticipate that our current system provider could allow the Iowa Lottery to offer sports betting,” Neubauer said. “Ultimately, the decision as to whether sports betting will be legalized in Iowa and exactly what sports betting were to look like if that were to occur here is a decision for our state’s lawmakers.”
The casino industry has been lobbying Iowa legislators for several years to pass a bill that would allow sports betting run by the state’s casinos, if the court ruled states could proceed. Mary Rathje of Marion, a member of the Iowa Lottery’s board, said Iowa Lottery retailers “need to be represented,” too, and that’s why lottery staff need to continue doing the research about how a sports lottery could work here.
“The casinos, I’m sure, have already got their scope and how they want to proceed with this and we need to be able to be on the same page, if and when it’s decided,” Rathje said during today’s board meeting.
Rob Porter, the Iowa Lottery’s legal counsel, said the businesses that sell Iowa lottery products are looking for ways to boost in-store traffic as consumers shift more of their purchases online.
“One of the things that has the most interest for our retailers is if individuals had a convenient option to place legal bets, it certainly would drive traffic to their store, especially in rural locations,” Porter said, “and the potential for economic development and additional traffic in the store is something that helps them and, by extension, helps us.”
Iowa Lottery officials will not lobby legislators to approve a sports lottery option, but have been directed by the board to research, monitor and prepare for a state law that might involve the lottery in sports betting.
A sports lottery would not be a big revenue producer for the state. Lottery officials predict is would yield between $1 million and $6 million annually. Last fiscal year, the Iowa Lottery generated nearly $81 million in revenue for the state.