Regulators say no to eSports gambling in Iowa

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Posted on: June 5, 2020 5:52 pm EDT

While some states are expanding sports gambling to cover additional activities, Iowa is shying away

The Iowa Gaming Association (IGA) sent a formal request to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to allow casino wagering on eSports competitions but with no luck. In a meeting held at the Grand Falls Casino and Resort in Larchwood, the commission gave the green light to daily fantasy sports betting as per a request by DraftKings Inc., of Boston; however, eSports won’t be part of the action offered to Iowans. Currently, DraftKings runs operations at three casinos in the Hawkeye State, in Clinton, Jefferson and Emmetsburg.

Even more so now that there is still a lack of sports in the country, eSports competitions, such as combat-based Fortnite and Call of Duty, have been gaining impressive popularity. Even major broadcast channels, including ESPN, have been offering eSports content; therefore, DraftKings and the IGA were basically begging the commission to consider including eSports in the list of authorized activities for casino wagering.

The negative response from the commission came from a consultation made to Jeff Peterzalek of the Iowa Attorney General’s (AG) Office, “In my legal opinion, it would not be allowed under Chapter 99f for sports wagering,” he said. The AG referred to the bill approved by Governor Kim Reynolds in May 2019 that allows sports gambling and fantasy sports in the state. He gave many reasons for this legal opinion, adding, “First of all, as with any statute, words matter. And the words in Chapter 99e (regarding fantasy sports) are substantially different than in 99f. You also have to keep in mind that what we approved in the prior agenda item wasn’t because esports was a sport or an authorized sporting event, it was because they were a simulated game or contest, which is expressly allowed under 99e. There is no such language in 99f.”