By Representative Dean Fisher

Bills that I have primary responsibility for include bills on insurance regulations from the Commerce committee, bills on hunting and fishing from the Natural Resources committee, and bills dealing with emergency vehicle regulations and creating a Justice Advisory Board from the Public Safety committee.

One of the hot topics that the legislature is addressing this year is whether or not to legalize sports betting. There has been a lot of discussion already, and of course a lot of media attention to the issue as well. This issue has arisen because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibited gambling on professional and college sports last year.

I will state for the record that I am opposed to legalizing sports gambling. We have many gambling options available already at our many casinos across the state. Many families in this state have suffered from addictions to gambling already, and legalizing more options will simply increase the number of families that are negatively impacted. There are legislators and constituents that are interested in pursuing sports gambling, so the legislature is thoroughly vetting this topic and considering all factors involved, using a transparent process and listening to Iowans on both sides of this issue.

Last week the House State government Committee held a two-hour subcommittee meeting on sports betting and heard arguments from Iowa’s Casinos, religious community, the Iowa Lottery, the horse racing industry, and concerned Iowa Citizens, among many others. Two arguments in favor of sports betting is that it is going on in Iowa regardless of whether or not it is legal, and that it is a “victimless crime”. I do not find these to be compelling arguments. there are many “victimless crimes” that occur that should not be legalized, among them prostitution and drug abuse. These crimes are also far from victimless. In the case of gambling, the gambling addict’s family also suffers effects of the addiction.

Another popular argument is that legalizing sports gambling will create a tax windfall for the state. This argument is not compelling either. In other states where sports gambling has already been legalized, the tax revenues have fallen far short of the estimates. I don’t see any upside to legalizing sports betting, but I see plenty of downside.

Last week, the House passed two appropriations bills for our K-12 Education system. This included a roughly $90 million increase in Supplemental State Aid, followed by a bill that increased transportation funding by $7.8 million that helps increase the dollars available for the classrooms in our rural schools that have high per student transportation costs compared to the urban schools. The Senate also passed these bills and sent them to governor Reynolds for signature.

As always, I can be reached at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov and at 641-750-3594.