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Prairie Meadows Calls Supreme Court Ruling ‘Perfect Timing’

ALTOONA, Iowa  --  The buzz continues around the possibility of legalized sports betting in Iowa.

It follows the Supreme Court's decision on Monday to wipe out a federal law allowing states to regulate the betting if they choose. Iowa lawmakers say they plan to revisit the bill during the next legislative session.

"It's an amenity that we'd like to have," says Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino CEO Gary Palmer.

Palmer says sports betting will attract more people to the casino for games like the World Series or the NCAA tournament.

"This brings it to a legal environment in the casinos and the state of Iowa where we can regulate it in the right way."

If lawmakers legalize sports betting in the state, Palmer says he'll be ready. The casino recently wrapped up renovations on a portion of the fourth floor clubhouse, but later this year it will give a facelift to the western side of the clubhouse, which would house the sports betting area. Officials say the area would include more televisions, a social area, and a large bar. Even if a bill does not pass, the casino had already planned to renovate the space.

Palmer has looked to cities like Las Vegas to gauge how much the state could benefit from sports betting. He says Iowa stands to profit about 2% of its gross income of this particular type of gambling. He admits that won't add up to much, but says the real payout is with the machines.

Those against the idea, like Tom Coates, say the problem won't be in the casino.

"It's one thing if the individuals were required to go out to a gambling site and place their bets. The problem I see coming from this is that it puts it online."

Coates is the director of the Consumer Credit of Des Moines. He helps people with their finances, and says 10% of his clientele struggles with major debt brought on by gambling. He fears this type of gambling will target young people.

"The millennials are not interested in going out to the casino, sitting on the stool for hours on end playing slot machines. You put a similar interactive game on their phones, you are going to see that number ramp way up."

He says right now, 5% of Iowans consider themselves problematic gamblers. He worries the addictive hobby could lead Iowans into greater financial trouble.

Coates isn't the only one with concerns. Prairie Meadows is also worried about how the betting will be taxed. Casino officials say if the tax is too high, there will be too narrow of a profit margin to make sports betting worthwhile for the state.