Sports betting set to kick off in Big Ten country

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Legal bookmakers will begin operating in Iowa this week, with Indiana soon to follow, marking the arrival of the growing American sports betting industry in Big Ten country.

Sportsbooks at some Iowa casinos will begin taking bets at 12 p.m., Thursday, including at Lakeside Hotel & Casino in Osceola and at Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, where former Iowa Hawkeyes great Tim Dwight will place the ceremonial first wager.

The Hawkeye State will be the 10th state and first in the Midwest to open legal sportsbooks since a May 2018 ruling by the United States Supreme Court that struck down the federal statute that had restricted state-sponsored sports betting to primarily Nevada. By football season, more than 20% of the U.S. population will reside in a state with legal sportsbooks -- and that number will continue to grow.

Indiana is right behind Iowa, with casinos and gaming facilities in the Hoosier State expected to open sportsbooks as early as Sept. 1. Oregon, through the state lottery, also is gearing up to launch sports betting in time for the NFL season.

Illinois, Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., are in line to be the next jurisdictions to enter the bookmaking business. In addition to Nevada, Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia have already begun taking sports bets.

In Iowa, in-person and online wagering will be available quickly. Bookmaking companies like Caesars Entertainment, FanDuel, PointsBet and William Hill U.S. will be among the operators.

Betting on professional and collegiate sports will be offered, including on games involving the University of Iowa and Iowa State. Other states with authorized sports betting over the past year have prohibited betting on state schools.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, however, says he doesn't think the legal sportsbooks will have much impact on his approach to keeping his players and staff away from sports betting.

"Gambling's always been involved," he told the media Saturday. "The lines of demarcation are pretty clear, and any of us involved in sports even think about getting involved in [gambling], that is just a bad deal."

Indiana also will allow betting on state teams. In 2018, Four Winds Casino opened a location in South Bend, Indiana, roughly seven miles from Notre Dame Stadium.

"Four Winds Casino is always looking for opportunities to enhance our guests' experience and will continue to do so with the passing of sports betting in the state of Indiana," the casino said in a statement to ESPN.

The NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis, remains opposed to sports betting, legal or illegal.

"The NCAA is not necessarily a stakeholder that is looking for the best way to regulate the industry," Jenny Reske, deputy director at the Indiana Gaming Commission, said. "We want to keep an open line of communication, for sure, but our job is to implement what the legislature told us, what the public policy is in the state. It's not to redo the legislation for people who didn't like the outcome.

"We didn't create sports wagering," Reske added. "Sports wagering was already prevalent."

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