A safe bet on sports betting

CBJ Editorial 

Iowa was the first state in the nation to legalize modern riverboat gambling in 1991, and effective Aug. 15, it will become one of the first 20 states to implement legalized sports betting.

The spread of sports betting has been swift and inevitable since New Jersey won a Supreme Court case over a federal law blocking sports wagering last year. Politicians facing re-election are reluctant to raise taxes, leaving many states struggling to maintain positive budget balances. They are most open to “vice taxes” on discretionary expenditures such as cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and gambling.

Some argue against allowing yet another form of gambling in Iowa. We believe moving forward on sports betting was appropriate, given a number of factors. Iowa’s gaming industry revenues have stagnated in recent years, sports betting is in high demand and a number of other states outside its early base in Nevada are adopting it.

Without its own gambling laws and framework, Iowans who want to bet on sports would simply do so in other jurisdictions. Some of the money spent on sports wagering is money that would otherwise be spent on casino table games and slots in Iowa, so a drain on overall gaming revenue could have resulted.

If it follows the pattern of other gaming that has been approved in Iowa, we expect sports betting to be expanded and broadened to include new kinds of bets and games over time. We hope regulators and legislators take the time to ensure that the first sports betting law and regulations are working smoothly first, and that collegiate and other sports are untainted by gambling. Since Iowa law allows betting on college sports, our biggest concern is that the coaches, players and officials involved be kept from betting directly or indirectly in contests in which they take part.

Sports gambling has significant revenue potential for Iowa. We commend the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for its work researching  this issue, and are counting on our state’s regulators to keep it clean and fair.

Amazon’s impact

As the CBJ reports in this week’s edition, the e-commerce giant Amazon could soon be setting up a delivery center in Iowa City.

This  facility would utilize part of the space being vacated by Procter & Gamble as it shifts production of  personal care products to a plant in West Virginia. Therefore, depending on the kind of incentive package demanded and jobs created, we are inclined to welcome Amazon. It could fill the space P&G will be leaving, replacing some of the jobs P&G is taking with it.

Amazon’s look at our area is also a somber reminder of the shifting retail landscape. Online retailing takes a larger share of the consumer dollar every year. We have nothing against it, particularly since Iowa’s new internet sales tax, allowed by a 2018 Supreme Court decision, levels the playing field for tax collections with brick-and mortar retailers.

We have no love of empty storefronts or hollowed-out downtown areas, however. Corridor government and business leaders will have to be proactive in support of projects that enhance the local retail experience and encourage residents to shop local when possible.  •