DES MOINES — A plan has emerged at the statehouse that would give the state’s casinos authority to take sports bets from customers in the casinos and from customers anywhere in the state using a smart phone app.

A Senate subcommittee approved its version of the plan Tuesday evening. “This bill is continuing to be a work in progress and we’re looking forward to hearing from the public (and) from stakeholders on how we can improve this bill,” said Roby Smith of Bettendorf, a Republican senator who’s been given the task of guiding the bill through the senate.

A representative of Iowa’s casino industry calls the plan an “ideal solution.” Brad Epperly, a lobbyist for the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, says grocers and convenience store owners are disappointed they aren’t allowed to offer a sports lottery, but the casinos may take bets from smart phones.

“We’re jumping into the deep end of the pool here, quite frankly,” Epperly said. “…I don’t see how an app can be policed. A couple of college kids — one’s 21 and one’s 20 — and a guy opens up an account. He’s not there in the casino placing a bet for his 20-year-old buddy.”

Others faulted the plan for failing to require some profits from sports betting be used within the casino communities.

“Think about some sort of carve out that would kind of drive that quality of life initiative and help with the workforce shortage and some of the pieces that draw people to Iowa,” said Craig Patterson, a lobbyist for the Travel Federation of Iowa, emphasizing that the 19 state-licensed casinos must use a portion of their current revenue to promote tourism and support community foundations.

Chuck Hurley of The Family Leader simply urged legislators to reject the idea of legalized sports betting in Iowa.

“At the risk of spitting into a hurricane…I beg you to think about the people who will suffer divorce, suicide, embezzlement and so forth because of gambling expansion,” Hurley said.

Senator Dan Dawson, a Republican from Council Bluffs, said he’s probably gotten more phone calls and emails about legalized sports wagering than any other issue.

“I think the majority, actually if not all of those phone calls and emails was in support of this,” Dawson said. “I think Iowans would like to see this move forward.”

The next step for this bill is debate in the Senate State Government Committee. Another senate committee is expected to weigh in on how high the state tax rate will be on sports wagering profits. On Thursday, a House subcommittee will examine a very similar plan for legalized sports betting and it does include a proposed tax rate.

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