Betting on sports is now legal in Iowa!
On May 13 Governor Kim Reynolds signed bill SF617 into law making Iowa the 11th US state to legalize sports betting. Several state-licensed casinos had sports betting licenses approved on Tuesday, July 30.
Eight casinos launched retail sports betting on Thursday, August 15, and two operators have since rolled out mobile wagering as well. And even more betting apps are on the way.
Launch date for Iowa state sports betting
Legally, sports betting had the green-light on Independence Day, July 4. In practice, none of the casinos were ready by then, but the first bets were placed well before football season kicks off on September 5.
Here is a list of casinos that launched on Thursday, August, 15:
- Prairie Meadows
- Isle Waterloo
- Isle Bettendorf
- Rhythm City
- Ameristar Council Bluffs
- Catfish Bend
Brian Ohrilko, administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, told Legal Sports Report just before launch that the commission was still reviewing controls but he expected the above eight properties to be the first to launch.
Additionally, Ohrilko anticipated the four William Hill casinos (Prairie, Lakeside, Waterloo, and Bettendorf) and the three casinos using Bet.Works (Riverside, Rhythm and Grand Falls) are on track to offer mobile sports betting. His instinct proved accurate, as William Hill and Bet.Works-powered Elite Sportsbook hit the open market.
What will Iowa sports betting look like?
Around 80 percent of modern sports betting takes place online or on mobile devices. Iowa has done well to ensure that its law allows online betting from the get-go.
The only rider to this is that bettors must register at casinos in-person for mobile accounts until Jan 2021.
Of course, many casinos will add live sports betting to their product offering and in-person betting is sure to be very popular. None of Iowa’s neighbors have legal sports betting yet, so expect sports bettors to start visiting the state to take advantage of Iowa’s laws.
Modern sports betting is very different to the way it was in years gone by. New technology and real time data mean sports betting operators can offer many different types of bet. The key change since sports betting was made illegal by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) is that sports betting is now a lot more fun.
Instead of just betting on the outcome of a match or event, sports bettors can now make in-game wagers on almost anything that might happen during a game.
The range of sports that you can bet on is also larger. Now you can bet on your favorite NFL, MLB or NHL games, but you can also bet on foreign soccer competitions, or tennis games and even minority sports are available.
In-game betting is a game changer
In-game or in-play betting is one of the most popular forms of sports betting now. Available bets range from who will score next to what the points spread will be at the end of each quarter.
There are two main types of in-game betting, updated bets and proposition or prop bets.
Imagine you have made a bet that your favorite team will win a game. But the play has gone against them and it now looks like you might lose your bet. With in-game betting, you can now hedge your bet by placing a bet on the opposition and so reduce your chance of losing the whole bet.
Conversely, when it looks like your team is winning you can double-down on your decision and place an extra bet on your team.
Of course, the odds change as the game progresses.
Other popular bet types
There are plenty of different ways to bet on your favorite sport:
- Parlay bet—a parlay bet ties together several individual bets. In a typical parlay, you pik the winner for several matches taking place on a specific day. You only win your bet if you predict every match correctly. The odds will be against you, but that means you can win a large sum for a small outlay—and if you lose you’ll have had a lot of fun, especially if you win the first few legs of the bet.
- Moneyline bets—Moneyline bets are the simplest form of bet. You simply bet on which team will win.
- Total bets—With a total bet the winners don’t matter. The bet is on the total score of the game. The bookmaker quotes two prices, one for the “over” and one for the “under.” You win if you predict the score correctly to be over or under the quoted number
- Spread bets—In a spread bet you are betting that the gap between one team’s score and their opponents will be more than a quoted number. The favorite is always quoted as a positive number and the underdog as a negative number.
- Round Robin—If you want to lay several parlay bets at the same time, a round robin is the way to do it. You make a list of for example eight teams and select maybe three of them to make each parlay bet. The round robin then creates a list of all the combinations of parlays for those three teams. It’s tough to calculate all the odds manually, but modern technology means the website or mobile app will do all the work for you.
- Teaser—A teaser bet is like a parlay but the individual elements are restricted to totals bets or spread bets. The trick is that the bettor can adjust the points spread or over/under a certain number of points. This reduces the odds, making the bet easier to win, but the pay-off is lower.
- Futures—If you want to bet on who will win the next Super Bowl, a futures bet is the one for you. But again, the technology means that you can bet on many different things. Futures bets can be on who will win a league, or even on how many points a player might score over a season. Each operator offers different varieties to bet on.
The law that makes it all legal
Iowa passed SF617 just over a year after the Supreme Court overturned PASPA. PASPA made state-regulated sports betting illegal except for states that were already allowing it.
New Jersey brought the case that resulted in the Supreme Court decision, so it is only natural that it should have been the first state to get sports betting going.
Iowa has moved relatively quickly to get its own legislation on the books. An existing casino industry and only minor opposition from tribal gaming interests helped.
The law consists mainly of amendments to the existing Gambling Games Regulation. Key features include:
- 6.75 percent tax rate on sports betting revenue
- A low $75,000 license fee with a $10,000 renewal fee
- Mobile betting allowed but restricted to intrastate means only
- Up to two skins allowed per licensee
- In-person registration for mobile apps until Jan 1, 2021
- No prop bets allowed on in-state college teams, but betting on other college games is allowed
- The regulator is the existing Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC)
The American Gaming Association (AGA) thinks Iowa has produced excellent sports betting law.
AGA executive Sara Slane commented:
“The state of Iowa has set its legal sports betting market up for success with a reasonable tax rate, mobile wagering, strong consumer protections and provisions that put responsible gaming at the forefront. Through the leadership of champions like Iowa Gaming Association President and CEO Wes Ehrecke, Iowans will now have a safe alternative to the illegal market that has thrived in the Hawkeye State and across the country…”
Who is allowed to operate sportsbooks in Iowa?
The law allows existing gambling licensees to apply for a sports betting license. Currently the IRGC licenses 19 state casinos. These are:
|Ameristar Council Bluffs||Council Bluffs||Pottawattamie|
|Casino Queen Marquette||Marquette||Clayton|
|Catfish Bend||Burlington||Des Moines|
|Diamond Jo Casino||Dubuque||Dubuque|
|Diamond Jo Casino – Worth||Northwood||Worth|
|Grand Falls Casino||Larchwood||Lyon|
|Hard Rock Sioux City||Sioux City||Woodbury|
|Harrah’s Council Bluffs||Council Bluffs||Pottawattamie|
|Horseshoe Council Bluffs||Council Bluffs||Pottawattamie|
|Isle of Capri||Bettendorf||Scott|
|Isle of Capri||Waterloo||Black Hawk|
|Lakeside Hotel & Casino||Osceola||Clarke|
|Rhythm City Casino Resort||Davenport||Scott|
|Riverside Casino & Golf Resort||Riverside||Washington|
|Wild Rose Casino and Resort||Clinton||Clinton|
|Wild Rose Casino and Resort||Emmetsburg||Palo Alto|
|Wild Rose Casino and Resort||Jefferson||Greene|
Which casinos will apply for licenses?
The ultra-low license fee of $75,000 will prove no barrier to entry for the existing casinos. The issue then boils down to whether the casinos want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to offer sports betting.
Iowa has a population of less than 3.2 million. Yes, out-of-state visitors will add to the market size, but there is no escaping the fact that Iowa will be a relatively small sports betting market.
Not all of the licensed casinos will want the expense and management overhead of adding sports betting. On the other hand, the market is strongly competitive and casinos may decide that this is an opportunity that they can’t afford to miss.
Each casino can launch two skins which means they can partner with two operators, or launch one skin with their own brand and another with their partner’s brand.
The brands and technology partners we can expect to see enter the market include:
- Scientific Games
- William Hill
DraftKings and FanDuel are obviously well known as daily fantasy sports providers, and both have become major players in the sports betting world, particularly in New Jersey. Both brands have expanded into Pennsylvania and West Virginia. And now, each can add Iowa to their portfolios.
DraftKings, along with Rush Street Interactive brand BetRivers, partnered with Wild Rose Entertainment as an avenue toward Iowa sports betting. The DFS power debuted retail sportsbooks at Wild Rose properties in Jefferson, Emmetsburg and Clinton. Not to be outdone, FanDuel introduced sportsbooks at Diamond Jo Casino locations in Northwood and Dubuque.
There are big corporate partnerships already in place with many US casino groups, such as MGM’s deal with GVC. Caesars and Eldorado have just announced a merger that will see the two companies join forces for online sports betting around the US. They are partnered with William Hill, The Stars Group, 888 and Scientific Games.
Some Iowa casinos have already set up new partnerships themselves. The Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino has a partnership with William Hill and Catfish Bend Casino struck a deal with PointsBet.
What about mobile apps for Iowa sports betting?
Mobile apps will be heavily present right from the start. They are the most popular way to bet online, but they may be slow to take off in Iowa.
The new law means that bettors can’t use mobile apps until they have registered an account at a casino. The need to physically visit a casino before placing online bets is a barrier.
The requirement will lapse in Jan 2021 after which mobile sports betting should take off.
Signing up for a mobile account is easy either online or in-person. In both cases you have to prove your identity and that you are over 21.
Deposits can be made at the casino cage where you sign-up, or via a range of online and third party methods. Typically these include:
- In-person at the cashier’s cage of the venue offering the online app.
- Credit/debit cards
- Online bank transfer
- Casino prepaid cards
- ACH eCheck
Withdrawals are equally easy, but not all deposit options can be used to withdraw. Typically a check withdrawal will arrive within a few days.
Once started it takes only minutes to get used to the software and start placing bets. Until you know your way around the app it’s best to keep your bet sizes small.
One innovation that sports bettors will enjoy is the welcome offer the mobile operators provide. Most operators will compete for customers by offering to give you a cash bonus equal to your first deposit or a free bet of some type.
Customer acquisition is expensive, so these offers are important recruiting tools. Don’t miss taking advantage.
Also legal in Iowa: daily fantasy sports
Only in rare instances have states launched regulated sports betting before daily fantasy sports.
Iowa is a rare instance.
As part of the state’s effort to legalize sports betting, so, too, was the DFS industry. Initially, the plan was for DFS to roll out in time for the NFL season. Opening week, however, came and went. As did the next few weeks of the season. Daily fantasy sports in Iowa remained sidelined.
With the two operators going live, Iowa became the 21st state with legal daily fantasy sports.
Iowa state sports betting FAQ
How old do I have to be to place a legal sports bet?
You must be over 21.
Can I place bets on my account when I am outside the state?
No, you can only use your online and mobile sports betting account when you are physically inside the state borders.
The operators use sophisticated geo-location technology to ensure there are no breaches.
Do I have to live in Iowa to bet?
No, you can set up an account online even if you are only visiting the state. However, you can only bet when you are inside state borders.
What do I do if I am currently using an offshore account?
Shut it down and switch to a regulated legal sports book!
If you are using an offshore book, you have no legal protection whatsoever. In the regulated system in Iowa, you can be sure that your money is safe, the games are not rigged and there are responsible gaming measures to ensure your health.
If that’s not enough to convince you, open an Iowa mobile account and find out how much fun in-game betting provides. The offshore books don’t offer much in the way of in-game betting because they don’t have access to the real-time data used to set the odds.
Will online poker and casino games be available?
Sadly, the new law only authorizes online sports betting. The lottery has plans to allow online lottery ticket purchases, but online poker and casino games have to wait for more legislation.
Social casino options
Iowa has many land-based casino options, but only four offer their own social casino sites. The two Caesars properties, Harrah’s Council Bluffs and Horseshoe Council Bluffs, offer several links to both branded and partnered websites, most notably Slotomania. Caesars also promotes its real-money sites to Iowans, even though they would have to travel to New Jersey or Nevada to play.
The other two properties to offer a social casino option are the two Isle of Capri casinos in Bettendorf and Waterloo. Both offer a link to Lady Luck Casino, which is a smaller, independently owned site based out of Nevada and serves various properties around the country.
Other than that, the typical social casino options are available on Facebook or mobile devices. Double Down, Big Fish, and Zynga all offer their services to Iowa residents and visitors.
It would be remiss not to mention MyVegas as well, which is the MGM Resorts site. MyVegas is notable because of its system for awarding real, redeemable comps to players. Although Iowans would have to travel to redeem these comps, real rewards can still be obtained without spending a dime (although one will have to spend quite a bit of time).
State casino operator history
Iowa’s foray into legal gambling began with criminal prosecution of a Catholic priest.
Back in 1971, the tiny Iowa town of North Buena Vista held its annual picnic on behalf of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. This event, a 40-year tradition, typically saw the use of a wheel of fortune, bingo, a dice table and some other small card games. The church also served beer for attendees, whose numbers swelled the town’s population from a meager 150 residents to more than 8,000 people each year.
However, the state attorney general decided to crack down, and at the end of the day, all the gambling equipment was confiscated by state agents, and Father Carl Ruhland was charged with running a gambling house. Two weeks later, he entered a guilty plea and paid the $100 fine. What happened after that was astounding.
Iowans were enraged by the idea of a church picnic being raided and the town priest standing trial. Public outcry was so intense that the Iowa Legislature passed a resolution to repeal the state’s ban on gambling in 1972, a mere year later. Unsurprisingly, the resolution was affirmed in the general election vote that year, and thus began Iowa’s journey to its respectable gambling array.
According to the most recent revenue report by the state, Iowa offers 19 casinos or racinos to its residents. The largest of those, both in terms of square footage and overall revenue, is Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona. Prairie Meadows offers patrons horse racing, 1,900 slot machines, a poker room and 13 different varieties of table games, all spread over nearly 90,000 square feet of casino space.
Obviously, if the largest casino in the state tops out at 90,000 square feet, then residents won’t be getting the superlatives of the megaresorts in Las Vegas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, or Connecticut. However, Prairie Meadows alone is reporting year-to-date revenues nearing $180 million, and two other properties, Ameristar II and Horseshoe Bluffs Run, are also north of $150 million for the year. For a state with just over 3 million residents, Iowans sure like to gamble — just in a laid-back, humble manner.
And to think, it all began with a Catholic priest getting in trouble with the law. Below are the five largest casinos in the state (by revenue) and their particulars.
State legal environment
|Permitted/Offered?||Notes & Restrictions|
|Online Gambling||Sports betting only||Legalization likely within five years|
|Lottery||Yes||In-state and multistate drawings|
|Charitable or House-based Gambling||Yes||Bingo and raffles|
|Minimum Gambling Age||21 for all types of gambling|