As discussed on this blog recently, a group of lawmakers in Iowa have been pushing matching bills in the Iowa House and Senate (Senate Study Bill 1068and House Study Bill 47), in an effort to specifically exempt certain fantasy sports contests from Iowa’s otherwise broad-reaching anti-gambling laws. This legislative effort is popular with Iowa State residents that wish to participate in pay-to-play fantasy sports leagues – as Iowa residents are currently prohibited from playing such contests, for prizes, on all major fantasy sports websites.
Yesterday, supporters of the effort to legalize fantasy sports in Iowa achieved a great victory: the Iowa senate passed the bill in question by a commanding 32-16 vote.
Iowa Fantasy Sports Bill Passes Midfield
The passage of the bill in the Iowa Senate marks the farthest progress of previous efforts at legalization, which were first attempted in March 2013, and then again in January 2014. While those efforts faltered in committee, the current legislative effort will now go before the Iowa House and, if passed, on to the governor for signing into law.
Nevertheless, passage in the Republican-controlled House is not guaranteed, and there remains stiff resistance among the State’s religious leaders and those concerned that pay-to-play fantasy sports create a slippery slope toward greater social ills that result from compulsive gambling.
Iowa in the Poll Position?
Despite the hurdles that remain in the House, by gaining passage in the Senate, Iowa has now leapt ahead of a pack of other states that are currently debating legislation to legalize fantasy sports – including Indiana, Kansas,Montana and Washington. Further, the Iowa victory comes at a time when all four major professional sports leagues, as well as high profile media companies and Wall St. investors, are openly supporting the pay-to-play fantasy sports industry. Given the broader societal trends, and the impressive level of support in the Iowa senate, there is legitimate cause for optimism in the Iowa legalization camp.
The evolution of state law applicable to fantasy sports remains a significant topic for all gaming attorneys, fantasy sports lawyers and those interested in fantasy sports law in general. If you plan on engaging in, or operating, a fantasy sports or other gaming venture, it is important to retain competent legal counsel to help you design your contests so that they comport with applicable law.