You may forgive native Iowans for being a tad confused about the legality of esports betting in their state. This is because of a vote that took place, and one that did not, last Thursday instigated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC), the working party responsible for deciding what type of wagering is and is not allowed in the state.
Thursday’s vote meant that DraftKings esports fantasy proposal for the state to allow fantasy esports contests run by the site was unanimously passed, by a 5-0 vote, a result which will no doubt have thrilled the popular fantasy sports provider, who can now begin to offer these fantasy esports contests via its website in Iowa.
However, a secondary vote on a request from the Iowa Gaming Association (IGA), which represents the 19 land-based casinos in the state, did not take place after nobody made a motion on the request.
The request from the IGA was for the IRGC to allow esports betting in the state’s casinos, but according to the legal liaison of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, Jeff Peterzalek, he contends that wagering on sports (or in this case, esports) and on sports contests are two very different things and are covered by different sections of law.
The key problem here according to Mr Peterzalek, was that the wording in the section that does allow for betting on contests does not match up with the wording in the section regarding esports.
Speaking about the lack of vote Mr Peterzalek commented “In my legal opinion, it [esports betting] woud not be allowed under Chapter 99f for sports wagering. There are multiple reasons for that. 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 were a sport or an authorised 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.”
Disappointment for the IGA
The lack of a vote for this additional esports betting item was a major blow for the IGA, although their president Wes Ehrecke reluctantly accepted the legal reasoning behind the decision.
However, given that the wording in the bill does not specifically include esports, or perhaps more pertinently rule them out, the IGA is hoping that it can continue to gain support for including esports betting in its 19 casinos in Iowa.
Its focus for this will be trying to clarify whether simulated sports competitions can be included as an acceptable form of wagering.
“Esports is one of the fastest-growing areas for fan base. It could be really worthwhile to include that for people who want to wager on their favourite teams in esports, in addition to what they might do for traditional sports.” Stated Mr Ehrecke following the announcement.
While wagering on daily fantasy esports is now allowed in Iowa, esports betting, generally due to a lack of semantic clarity, remains unavailable. However, the IGA remain determined to change that and it is likely they will continue to lobby the IRGC to clarify the legislation and to allow esports betting in the state.