Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds is preparing to review a gaming bill passed by lawmakers that would impose a two-year moratorium on any new casinos in the state while permitting cashless gaming on casino floors.
“The governor and her team conduct a full review of all bills that make their way to her desk,” spokesman Alex Murphy told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Tuesday (May 24), after the House and Senate passed House File 2497 on Monday night.
“She has 30 days after the end of the legislative session to sign any bills.”
If Reynolds signs the bill, long-standing efforts to develop a 20th Iowa casino in Cedar Rapids, which is in Linn County, would be on hold until at least July 2024.
Iowa gaming regulators previously denied a gaming license for Cedar Rapids in both 2014 and 2017, citing concerns of market saturation.
But voters in Linn County last November passed a local ballot initiative to approve a casino and allow officials to apply for a state gaming license. Linn County officials have partnered with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment on the project.
Brian Ohorilko, an administrator at the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC), said the IRGC plans to discuss the issue at its June 2 meeting.
Elsewhere, HF 2497 would expressly permit cashless gaming in Iowa casinos by enabling patrons to access a cashless wagering account through a mobile application. The app would have to include links to problem gambling information, according to an amendment added to the bill.
The approved gambling bill would also tweak Iowa’s 2019 sports wagering law by permitting operators to offer bets on charitable sporting events such as pro-am golf tournaments, as well as so-called “sports-related events” like the NFL draft or individual player awards that are not directly determined on the field of play.
In its original form, HF 2497 also would have authorized wagering on esports contests but the provision was removed in the Senate amid pushback from anti-gambling groups.
The IRGC has determined that Iowa’s definition of a sporting event does not encompass competitive video-games contests, and operators are not currently allowed to offer wagering on esports.
West Virginia and New Jersey have approved bills in recent months to expressly approve esports betting, while similar legislation is also pending in Pennsylvania. Most other states beyond Iowa and Indiana either expressly allow esports betting or do not prohibit it, according to VIXIO research.
HF 2497 was passed by the House in March when it was limited to cashless gaming and esports betting.
The Senate added an amendment on Monday to also impose the moratorium on casino expansion and separately authorize simulcast horse and dog racing at casinos. Senators voted 35-11 to pass the bill before the amended version was then approved by the House by a vote of 60 to 23.
Earlier this year, Iowa lawmakers also briefly considered legislation to authorize internet gaming. But a bill quickly stalled after passing out of a House subcommittee, in part due to concerns of cannibalization among some Iowa casino operators.