Fantasy sports bill advances in Iowa

February 13, 2014

Iowa residents will soon be able to pick Russell Wilson for their fantasy teams (Paul Sancya/AP)

Almost one in 10 Iowa residents participate in fantasy sports. Soon, those players could win money for their picks, under a proposal making its way through the state legislature.

The measure, which won approval in a key state Senate committee on Monday, would clarify that fantasy sports aren’t considered gaming under Iowa law, and therefore are legal. A similar bill is making its way through the state House.

Under the current law, Iowa residents are prohibited from playing fantasy sports on Web sites like ESPN and Yahoo! But no Iowan has ever been prosecuted for participating in a fantasy sports league.

Iowa is one of just five states — along with Arizona, Louisiana, Montana and Vermont — that outlaw prizes for fantasy sports. Maryland passed an exemption similar to the proposed Iowa legislation in 2012.

About 33 million Americans played fantasy sports in 2012, or about 10 percent of the country’s population, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Participants spent more than $3 billion on fantasy sports that year, on everything from products like draft kits to premium television channels like NFL Red Zone. A little less than half that amount, $1.4 billion, went to entry fees.

The Iowa bill passed the Senate committee on a voice vote with no objections. A state House panel heard testimony on its version of the bill on Tuesday.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.
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