Counties stand to gain from new sports betting revenue formula

DES MOINES — All 99 Iowa counties — including for the first time 15 counties that have state-licensed casinos — will receive funding from sports gambling revenue to improve the quality of life under legislation being considered by state lawmakers.

The proposal would redistribute roughly $23 million accumulated in a state fund since sports betting in Iowa became legal and subject to a tax of about 7 percent. It would send the money — and future sports betting revenue — to all 99 counties for local grants that fund quality-of-life improvements like emergency response services.

Counties that have casinos are Black Hawk, Clarke, Clayton, Clinton, Des Moines, Dubuque, Greene, Lyon, Palo Alto, Polk, Pottawattamie, Scott, Washington, Woodbury and Worth.

As currently in law, the 84 counties that do not have a casino will continue to receive funding of 0.8 percent of state revenue for all gambling in the state’s casinos. The proposed legislation would add a new funding stream from state sports gambling and fantasy sports revenue to the endowment funds of all 99 counties.

Under the proposed legislation, of the state’s sports betting revenue, $1.8 million a year would go to the state’s gambling addiction treatment program and $1 million would go to the state’s general fund to expand the Endow Iowa tax credit — available to gifts to charitable causes — up to a total of $7 million.

Of the revenue remaining after these appropriations, 85 percent will go to the County Endowment Fund, which goes to organizations that meet needs in Iowa counties. This is the new revenue stream that will go to all 99 counties.

The Legislative Services Agency, the state’s nonpartisan fiscal analysis arm, projects that the new allocation will be $8 million in the state budget year that ends in June 2025.

“I support it as well, I think it does a lot of good things,” Rep. Jacob Bosman, R-Sioux City, said this week during a legislative hearing on the bill. “From gambling treatment to sports tourism to the Endow Iowa tax credit and community foundations, I think we can put that money to good use.”

Iowa is projected to receive $12.5 million in tax revenue from sports betting in the current budget year, which ends June 30, according to the legislative agency.

The sports betting revenue fund as of April 10 had accumulated a balance of $19.5 million, according to the agency, after accounting for distributions to the gambling addiction program and to a sports tourism program.

Bosman said the proposed legislation was put together because lawmakers in the past have disagreed on where the state’s sports betting tax revenue should be distributed, but lawmakers have come closer to a consensus this year.

The proposed law, House File 710, has made its way through the legislative process in the Iowa House; it passed the full house Thursday in a unanimous, 99-0 vote. It may now be considered in the Iowa Senate.

“The only thing I really like about this (bill) is that it distributes the money to all 99 counties,” Iowa Rep. Timmy Brown-Powers, D-Waterloo, said Thursday as lawmakers debated the bill.

The latest sports betting numbers

An estimated $194 million in spot bets were placed in Iowa in February, the month that included the Super Bowl, according to data from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, the state agency that regulates gambling. That’s down from the $216 million that was pledged in February 2022.

That figure rose to $233 million in March, which includes the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. This figure is equal to gambling revenue in March 2022, which was $234 million.

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