Number of sports gamblers is one of the unknowns of new law

DES MOINES — Sports gambling got underway in Iowa Thursday at most of the casinos which are already cleared to take bets.

Iowa Gambling Treatment program manager Eric Preuss says there’s one big question about who will be making the bets. “Do we have a bunch of new players — or is it people who are already doing that activity themselves and saying ‘hey now it’s legal, I’m going to do it?,’” Preuss asks.

A recently completed survey on gambling showed many Iowans already have an interest in sports betting. “It’s about one in five adult Iowans — about 20 percent have wagered — either in a game of skill, an office pool, or sports betting, played fantasy sports, that type of thing. So, 430-thousand Iowans  have participated in these types of activities,” according to Preuss.

While the casinos are creating sports book areas on their properties — the bulk of the sports gambling is expected to happen through their online apps. Preuss says the online option is something that fits in with what is already taking place with technology. “We all carry smartphones with us. We all play games that have in-app purchases,” Preuss says. “And any time that you have an in-app purchase opportunity, you have an opportunity of a gambling type behavior,” Preuss says.

He says one area of concern is young people and their parents understand the difference between the games on their phone and sports gambling. “When you see already the trends that are happening with the 18 and older crowd here in the state of Iowa and the in-app purchases they’re doing and how they’re video gaming and the things and the money that they are putting in their video gaming —  it is this concern that parents might think it is a fun thing to do,” Preuss says.

His says parents need to talk with kids and let them know sports gambling is the same as other forms of gambling and not legal for those under 21. “It’s not appropriate for parents to buy lottery tickets for their kids. It’s not appropriate for parents to say ‘hey go place a bet on my phone,’” Preuss says.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has approved sports betting licenses for 18 of the 19 state-licensed casinos. The Diamond Jo Worth casino near Northwood will open up the sports betting area in their casino either late this month or early next month.

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