A roundup of state government and Capitol news items of interest for Monday:
SPORTS BETTING AT RECORD CLIP: Iowa gamblers wagered nearly $82 million last month on pro and college sports, setting a monthly record that could be short-lived with November’s betting handle expected to climb even higher with football, this week’s Masters golf tourney and other events.
October numbers issued Monday by the state Racing and Gaming Commission indicated record levels of sports betting handle, mobile/online handle and revenue all at all-time monthly highs.
Since July 1, Iowans have wagered nearly $227.5 million on events such as the NBA Finals, World Series and pro and college football games — with nearly $160 million bet via online apps.
Adjusted gross revenue also increased at Iowa’s 19 state-licensed casinos by 2%, with October’s $121.57 million bringing year-to-date numbers to nearly $480.5 million since July 1.
Admissions topped 5.1 million patrons for the four-month period as Iowans make their way back to indoor casinos amid ongoing COVID-19 concerns that caused Gov. Kim Reynolds to order their doors closed for 11 weeks to slow the coronavirus spread.
Overall, the gambling enterprises have brought in $90.6 million in tax revenue for the state, while sports betting has generated $1.3 million in state tax.
IOWA GALA DEC. 11: Officials with the state Department of Cultural Affairs are hosting a virtual Celebrate Iowa Gala next month.
The event’s ninth annual showcase of art, culture and entertainment will offer guests on Dec. 11 opportunities to meet notable Iowans, watch an Iowa movie star add his handprints to the Wall of Fame at the State Historical Museum of Iowa, and enjoy musical performances at notable Iowa venues, such as the American Gothic House in Eldon and the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, according to organizers.
The event coincides with 175 years of statehood for Iowa, which joined the Union on Dec. 28, 1846.
Tickets are $25 for the 7 p.m. gala, $100 for the gala and cultural mixer, and $250 for an all-access pass for the whole evening, including the VIP Reception.
Proceeds will support statewide educational programs and exhibitions offered by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.
For more details, visit iowaculture.gov/gala.
GROUPS SEEK MORE EVICTION RELIEF: Representatives of civil rights organizations and community service providers have asked Gov. Kim Reynolds to authorize additional funding to prevent Iowans from being evicted from their homes.
Earlier this year, the governor created the $22 million Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program, which provided up to four months of rental payments to landlords on behalf of households struggling to pay rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting unemployment and drops in income.
She then authorized an additional $9 million to the fund, which was quickly depleted. Now she is being asked to add more money to the fund and to commit to sustained efforts to prevent eviction, housing instability and homelessness.
In a letter to Reynolds, the coalition is asking the governor to add at least $80 million to Iowa’s eviction prevention fund to help families remain stably housed and help property owners avoid bankruptcy.
An estimated 51,000 to 104,000 Iowa households are at risk of eviction, according to the group. Providing two months of rental assistance at $800/month to the low estimate of Iowa households at risk of eviction (51,000) requires at least $80 million.
The group also is asking the governor to prohibit assessment or collection of late fees or fines associated with late payment of rent and to prohibit retaliation against tenants seeking protection under eviction moratoriums or applying for or receiving assistance through Iowa’s eviction prevention fund.
AG GRANTS AWARDED: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says more than 200 local meat and poultry processors have been awarded Meat Processing and Expansion Development Program grants through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
The small businesses will be able to use the funds to buy or upgrade equipment, develop a direct-to-consumer sales strategy, or participate in food safety certification training.
The grants are possible thanks to $4 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. or CARES Act, funding allocated by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Naig said Monday that 109 meat and poultry processors will receive business improvement grants to buy or upgrade their equipment; 85 livestock producers will receive direct marketing grants to produce marketing materials, develop services or buy equipment to help transition to a direct-to-consumer sales strategy; and owners and/or employees of 10 state-inspected and licensed meat and poultry establishments have been awarded tuition grants to participate in continuing education programs.
A complete list of the grant recipients is available at iowaagriculture.gov/grants.