A bill to clarify that “fantasy” sports leagues are legal in Iowa has cleared the Senate State Government Committee. Senator Rick Bertrand of Sioux City steered the bill through committee. “Right now in Iowa gaming is defined as a game of chance,” Bertrand says. “And what this bill does is it classifies fantasy sports as a game of skill, not chance so it does not need any type of licensing as long the prizes are established and made known in advance.”
In “fantasy sports” leagues, participants pretend to be the owner of a team made up of real players. These “fantasy” franchises get points based on the statistics the real players rack up, like the number of touchdowns a quarterback throws during a game. The fantasy sports industry is seeking to legalize the games in Iowa this year, as state law prevents players from winning cash or prizes above the value of what they paid to participate in a fantasy sports league.
“This is not an expansion of gaming of any sort,” Bertrand says. “This basically provides clarity.” The Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates 33-and-a-half million people in the U.S. and Canada played fantasy sports in 2013. During Monday afternoon’s committee meeting Senator Tod Bowman of Maquoketa — a former high school wrestling coach — asked Bertrand if some of these fantasy teams involve amateur athletes.
“If Senator Feenstra and I wanted to be involved in an NCAA wrestling fantasy league, that would be legal under this?” Bowman asked. Bertrand interjected: “You may be the only two, but I’m not sure.” That prompted laughter in the committee room. “We’ll say it’s basketball. In all seriousness, would this be legal with the NCAA?” Bowman asked. Bertrand replied: “….It looks like professional sports is all I see.” However, some fantasy teams do involve college athletes.
There are a number of online sites that help players manage fantasy teams and fantasy sports have become big business for websites run by professional sports leagues as well as E-S-P-N and C-B-S Sports. No Iowan has been prosecuted for playing fantasy sports games despite existing state law. The industry estimates a quarter of a million Iowans play fantasy sports.