Iowa athletes charged in sports betting investigation are suing state


More than two dozen athletes who were based in Iowa filed a federal lawsuit Friday alleging that state criminal investigators violated their constitutional rights by using geolocation software to track activity on their cellphones as part of a widespread sports wagering inquiry that resulted in criminal charges and the loss of NCAA eligibility.

At issue in the 47-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa is whether the state’s criminal investigators needed a search warrant before using a program from third-party company GeoComply to find athletes — including many who were under 21, the legal betting age in Iowa and conduct searches to examine their online wagering activity.

The plaintiffs are 26 current and former athletes: 16 from the University of Iowa, nine from Iowa State and one from a community college in central Iowa. Thirteen played football, six wrestled and the other seven played baseball or basketball.

“The lives of these young men have been disrupted and altered in way[s] still yet to be fully seen,” Matt Boles, Adam Witosky and Van Plumb, the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “It is our hope that through the civil action we can help these young men put their lives back on track and gain a measure of justice for the violation of their rights.”

The lawsuit alleges the state; its Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Investigation; and its agents violated the athletes’ civil rights by using the GeoComply software without a warrant to identify phones using mobile sports betting apps within Iowa and Iowa State athletic facilitiesGeoComply provides geolocation software to major sportsbooks to monitor users. The lawsuit notes that when users register with online betting companies, they “consent to share their location data with GeoComply, who in turn provides this data back to the companies.” Written policies from DraftKings and FanDuel, the two online sportsbooks the athletes used, tell users the companies may disclose personally identifying information to law enforcement.

The NCAA prohibits athletes from betting on any sport it sponsors at any level.