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Iowa Senate panel OKs fantasy sports prizes

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 11:02 a.m. CST

DES MOINES (AP) — Fantasy sports enthusiasts in Iowa could start winning money in their games under a bill that got committee-level approval in the Iowa Senate Monday.

The Senate State Government Committee approved legislation that would allow people who participate in fantasy sports leagues to win monetary prizes. The bill will now move to the full Senate for a vote.

Currently, Iowa law does not allow people to play fantasy sports for money. Such games, which are offered by major sports teams and other online outlets, invite people to “draft” a list of real players for an imagined team. The real-world statistics for the players determine who wins.

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, said no one has been prosecuted in Iowa for playing fantasy sports, but he said he want to be “proactive” about clarifying the rules in the state.

Sen. Rick Bertrand, R- Sioux City, said the bill will not expand gambling in Iowa.

“This is not an expansion of gaming of any sort. It provides clarity and aligns us with other states,” Bertrand said. He noted that no lobbyists had registered against the bill.

Peter Schoenke, chairman of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, said his organization supports the law change. He said some fantasy sports leagues with financial prizes don’t allow Iowa residents to play.

“From our standpoint it’s a game of skill, predominantly skill involved. I think generally speaking, most people think fantasy sports are a game of skill,” said Schoenke, president of RotoWire.com, a fantasy sports information network.

Schoenke noted that under federal law, fantasy sports are permitted, but that doesn’t override state law in Iowa.

A similar measure is also under consideration in the state House. That bill is being sponsored by Rep. Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, and will be up for subcommittee review Tuesday.