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Expert says taxes on sports book won’t be ‘cash cow’ for State of Iowa

DES MOINES — A Drake University professor says the research shows Iowa won’t reap hundreds of millions — or even tens of millions more in gambling taxes if the state legalizes and taxes sports betting within the state’s borders.

Keith Miller is an expert on gambling law.

“It’s not going to be a ‘cash cow,’” Miller said recently on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. “…It’s not going to be a budgetary game-changer.”

Miller published a book titled “The Law of Gambling” in 2016 and his research on the topic has been published in four academic journals in the past five years.  He describes sports books as “low margin” operations.

“One industry group estimated that the first year of Iowa sports books — if it were legal — would take in around $80 million and people look at that and say: ‘That’s a lot of money to tax,’ but the fact is sports books historically retain only five percent of that The rest of it goes back to the successful bettors,” Miller said, “so if we take five percent — if that $80 million figure is accurate — we’re taxing $4 million.”

In 2017, the state-licensed casinos paid nearly $300 million in taxes to the state, on about $1.5 billion in revenue.

There will be public hearings at the Iowa capitol this Wednesday and Thursday on proposals to legalize sports wagering within the state’s borders.


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