Iowa Legal Online Gambling & Betting Guide

Updated on March 24, 2020

Betting on sports is now legal in Iowa!

Iowa may not strike outsiders as a hub for many types of gambling. However, a closer look at the Hawkeye State reveals that’s exactly what it is.

It’s true that Iowa recently joined the fraternity of states with sports betting. There are now both online and retail sportsbooks aplenty inside the state lines.

However, to limit the discussion about Iowan gaming to sports betting would be a great disservice to the other opportunities that residents and visitors have. So, keep reading to learn about all the different types of gambling that call Iowa home.

Is gambling legal in Iowa?

Yes. Iowa is home to several types of legal gambling. As a result, gaming is a widespread activity across the state.

However, most of these types are land-based forms of gambling. Online gambling is still, by and large, a forbidden practice in Iowa.

Below is a guide to all the different forms of gambling that a player can find in the Hawkeye State.

Iowa legalizes sports betting

Sports betting became legal and live in Iowa in 2019. The time from legalization to launch was quite quick, and there were multiple online and retail sportsbooks active in the state by the end of 2019.

Online sportsbooks in Iowa include:

Due to Iowa law, players must download the app and visit a land-based partner before they can complete their registration and make their first deposit. However, once that step is complete, online sports betting proceeds in Iowa as it does in other states.

Meanwhile, there are several retail sportsbooks accepting bets as well. Land-based casinos in Iowa with sportsbooks include:

  • Ameristar Council Bluffs
  • Catfish Bend
  • Diamond Jo – Worth
  • Grand Falls
  • Harrah’s Council Bluffs
  • Horseshoe Council Bluffs
  • Isle of Capri – Bettendorf
  • Isle of Capri – Waterloo
  • Lakeside
  • Prairie Meadows
  • Q Casino
  • Rhythm City
  • Riverside
  • Wild Rose – Clinton
  • Wild Rose – Emmetsburg
  • Wild Rose – Jefferson

Legal casinos in Iowa

Iowa is home to a wide variety of casino locations. There are land-based casinos, tribal casinos, a tribal bingo (Class II) casino, a racino, and a riverboat casino.

All in all, Iowa is home to 23 different properties that are casinos of some stripe. The biggest cluster is in Council Bluffs.

Somewhat unusually, they are distributed fairly evenly across the state.  As a result, most Iowans live in fairly close proximity to at least one location.

Here are the casinos that are currently active in the Hawkeye State:

  • Ameristar Council Bluffs, Council Bluffs
  • Blackbird Bend Casino (tribal), Onawa
  • Casino Queen Marquette (riverboat), Marquette
  • Catfish Bend Casino, Burlington
  • Diamond Jo Casino, Dubuque
  • Diamond Jo Casino – Worth, Northwood
  • Grand Falls Casino, Larchwood
  • Hard Rock Sioux City, Sioux City
  • Harrah’s Council Bluffs, Council Bluffs
  • Horseshoe Council Bluffs, Council Bluffs
  • Isle Casino Bettendorf, Bettendorf
  • Isle Casino Waterloo, Waterloo
  • Lakeside Hotel & Casino, Osceola
  • Meskwaki Casino (Class II tribal), Tama
  • Prairie Flower Casino (tribal), Carter Lake
  • Prairie Meadows (racino), Altoona
  • Q Casino, Dubuque
  • Rhythm City Casino Resort, Davenport
  • Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, Riverside
  • Wild Rose Casino, Clinton
  • Wild Rose Casino, Emmetsburg
  • Wild Rose Casino, Jefferson
  • WinnaVegas Casino Resort, Sloan

Online Casinos in Iowa

Online casino gambling is expressly prohibited by Iowa state law. At this time, it appears that state lawmakers are focusing their attention on developing sports betting, rather than introducing virtual slots and table games to their residents and visitors.

Legal Poker in Iowa

Though not as extensive, live poker is certainly available in Iowa. The Hawkeye State is home to 9 live poker rooms.

Of the 9, the room at the Horseshoe Council Bluffs is the largest. According to PokerAtlas, the Caesars property is home to 18 tables.

The other large room is, somewhat surprisingly, at the Meskwaki Casino. This tribal property is actually a Class II gaming facility, but poker qualifies as a legitimate offer there under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Here is a list of the live poker venues located in Iowa:

  • Catfish Bend Casino, Burlington
  • Diamond Jo Casino – Worth, Northwood
  • Grand Falls Casino, Larchwood
  • Horseshoe Council Bluffs, Council Bluffs
  • Meskwaki Casino (Class II tribal), Tama
  • Prairie Meadows (racino), Altoona
  • Q Casino, Dubuque
  • Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, Riverside
  • WinnaVegas Casino Resort, Sloan

Online poker sites in Iowa

Like online casinos, online poker play is not permitted by state law. It is unlikely that Iowans will be able to take part in peer-to-peer games very soon.

Iowa Lottery

Like many states, Iowa is home to a lottery. The Iowa Lottery is a state-run operation that is a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association.

The lottery does offer a mobile app for both iOS and Android device users. However, this app does not permit purchasing tickets online. Therefore, the Iowa Lottery is a strictly retail operation.

Its proceeds go to fund various state programs. Recipients, which include funds for veterans, families of law enforcement officials and firefighters, general state fund projects, and the Vision Iowa tourism initiative, have received more than $2 billion in proceeds since the lottery’s inception in 1985.

Racing

Though animal racing has waned in popularity in the last few years, it remains a staple for many states’ gambling offerings. Iowa is no different, and offers several different methods for betting on races in the state.

First and foremost, there is a single live horseracing venue in the state of Iowa. Prairie Meadows, which is also a casino, offers thoroughbred, quarter, and mixed meets four days a week from May until December.

Iowa is also home to a single greyhound racing venue. However, market pressures and unfriendly publicity are squeezing the bottom line for this track, and it seems unlikely that the practice will continue for many more years in the Hawkeye State.

Simulcast racing/off-track betting

Alongside its live racing, Prairie Meadows also offers simulcasting and wagering onsite. Players can place their bets and view races at tracks around the country in real-time.

There are also a few off-track betting sites around the state. In addition to Prairie Meadows, bettors can catch simulcast action and make wagers at the Iowa Greyhound Park and the Wild Rose Casino – Clinton.

Online horse betting

Like roughly half the states in the country, Iowa allows its residents and visitors to bet horse races online. That fact means that it’s not even necessary to make the drive to Prairie Meadows or any of the other locations to place a bet.

Instead, sites like TVG are available to accept your wagers and provide you with key insight to make your best bet. For those who are unaware, TVG is a 24-hour full-service horseracing network with around-the-clock coverage and tips on picking the best winners.

Daily Fantasy Sports in Iowa

Iowa is a state that made daily fantasy sports legal in the very recent future. Thanks to the passage of a 2019 law, top operators like DraftKings and FanDuel have free access to the Hawkeye State.

Daily fantasy sports, or DFS, is a popular niche for gamblers that combines fantasy sports with sports betting. Players compete with others across the country in short-duration fantasy contests for thousands of dollars each day. Contests available span across fantasy golf, basketball and even NASCAR.

Its two pioneering companies, FanDuel and DraftKings, have gone onto become some of the biggest names in American sports betting. In an uncanny twist, the rise of both operators has mirrored one another along the way, even though the two companies are the bitterest of rivals.

Sweepstakes Sites

In order for a sweepstakes to be legitimate in Iowa, it must, essentially, be free to play. A sweepstakes cannot require any sort of remuneration, including advance payments in order to collect winnings. They must also publish their odds of winning.

At present, there are several sweepstakes sites offering great action in most states. Because of the fact that it is possible to mail away and receive entries to sites like Chumba Casino, Global Poker, Luckyland Slots, and Fendoff Sports, Iowans are able to take part in sweepstakes site play if they choose.

These sites use a unique dual-currency business model in order to stay in compliance with state law. Although it’s possible to speed up the process of receiving entries with purchases, it is not a requirement.

Charitable Gaming

Charitable gaming is an umbrella term that covers any type of gaming organized by a non-profit organization. According to Iowa Code Chapter 99B, charitable organizations in the state can apply for a license to offer bingo, raffles, social gambling, and amusement devices.

Naturally, a charitable gaming license covers bingo, raffles, and games of skill and chance. All other types of gaming must be conducted by a social gambling licensee. Interestingly, it is possible to host poker cash games under this license, but not tournaments.

Finally, liquor license holders can offer sports betting pools under very limited circumstances in the state. Quite frankly, this exception is, in a nutshell, to allow March Madness pools.

A Brief History of Gambling Laws in Iowa

If you’re still reading, you may wonder how all of this gambling is possible in Iowa. After all, the Hawkeye State is best known for cornfields and the Field of Dreams.

However, the road to becoming a gambling epicenter is both long and twisted. Here are some of the key dates and laws that have allowed Iowa to rise:

1983

The Pari-Mutuel Act passes the state legislature in May. After the Governor signs the bill into law in July, he appoints the first Racing Commission. Operators begin applying for licenses to offer horse and greyhound racing and pari-mutuel betting.

1985

A law to form the state lottery passes in April. The first tickets, in the form of a scratch game known as “Scratch, Match and Win,” go on sale in August at the Iowa State Fair. The state would later add both in-state and multi-state drawings to its portfolio, including Powerball and Mega Millions.

The first pari-mutuel facility opens in June 1985, after nearly two years of licensing and construction. The first race to run was a greyhound event at Dubuque Greyhound Park.

1989

The passage of the Iowa Excursion Boat Gambling Law opens the door for the first riverboat gambling in the United States. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, a mere six years into its life, is now authorized to license operators to conduct gambling excursions.

However, the new law requires that the counties in which the excursions would moor must approve the introduction of the boats. Throughout the year, eight of nine referendums to approve pass.

1991

The first three riverboats set sail in April. The Dubuque Casino Belle in Dubuque, the Diamond Lady in Bettendorf, and The President in Dubuque become the first active riverboats in the state.

A fourth, the Emerald Lady in Burlington, joins the trio in May. However, of these four initial entries, only the Diamond Lady remains to present day in any format. The operation eventually moves ashore and becomes the Isle of Capri – Bettendorf.

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1992

Iowa negotiates three compacts with federally-recognized Native American tribes to offer casino gaming in Iowa. By the end of the year, the three tribes (Winnebago, Omaha, and Sac and Fox) open the Winnavegas Casino in Sloan, the CasinOmaha in Onawa, and the Meskwaki Bingo and Casino in Tama, respectively.

All three properties remain in operation to this day. However, the CasinOmaha eventually becomes the Blackbird Bend Casino.

1994

The passage of a law in March removes many of the restrictions placed upon excursion boats. Riverboats are now permitted to offer unlimited wagering amounts and do away with loss limits.

Furthermore, they are no longer prohibited from using more than 30% of their boats for gaming purposes. The entire boat is available, and they can offer gambling while sitting at the dock. Best of all, they are now able to operate 24 hours per day.

However, the law mandates a few safeguards against the free-for-all it has enacted. First and foremost, the gambling age on riverboats rises to 21. The law also specifies that the counties in which the boats are moored must pass new referenda to accept the changes AND must revote on the issue at regular intervals.

Finally, the measure allows for certain gambling games to be conducted at what it calls “racetrack enclosures.” As is the case with riverboats, this measure is subject to a referendum vote from its home county.

1995-2003

No major developments or changes occur during this period. Operators move into and out of the state, and counties either approve or deny new referenda on keeping boats active in their counties.

2004

New legislation introduces several measures that increase responsible gaming and self-help guidelines for excursion facilities. It requires licensees (operators) to create their own voluntary exclusion programs for problem gamblers who cannot stop playing.

It also bans cash and credit devices on casino floors. Fewer ATMs means that problem and vulnerable gamblers struggle to fund themselves so easily.

The law also cracks down on underage gambling. Underage gamblers who play or attempt to play on a boat are now subject to a $500 fine.

Finally, the new legislation creates or raises taxes for both the counties in which the boats reside and the Gamblers Treatment Fund. This law is one of the best examples of legislation to acknowledge the downsides of gambling expansion. It even provides for a study to examine the socioeconomic impacts of gambling in the state.

However, in a sort of oblique maneuver, this law challenges the very notion of what constitutes a boat – legally, at least. Boats can now be moored barges (so they don’t have to be seaworthy) and can be located on reservoirs or lakes.

In other words, casinos are now required only to be platforms.

2007

Legislation authorizes bonafide land-based casinos in the state. Gambling facilities no longer have to be tied to a water source, even if it’s a man-made pit.

There are also new regulations designed to create more humane situations for both horses and greyhounds used in racing. Drugs accepted for race-day usage are more strictly limited.

2011

The industry has enough experience that only minor legal tweaks are required to keep things going. Laws come that adjust purse structure, for instance.

However, Iowa now allows advance deposit wagering to take place. So, bettors can place bets using the telephone or internet if they have sent money ahead to the track.

A new law also creates an imperative for the commission to study online poker. It mandates a report to be delivered to the legislature by December.

2019

DFS and sports betting becomes fully legal under state law.

Iowa gambling laws and taxes

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% 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…”

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.

Iowa’s launch into online gambling

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.

Entering the fold in February 2020, UK-based Betfred opened up shop at Grand Fallas Casino.

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.

Iowa Gambling FAQ

How many casinos are located in Iowa?

  1. There are 19 commercial casinos and 3 tribal facilities.

Do any of these casinos have sportsbooks?

Most of them, actually. Here is a list of Iowa casinos with sportsbooks onsite:

  • Ameristar Council Bluffs
  • Catfish Bend
  • Diamond Jo – Worth
  • Grand Falls
  • Harrah’s Council Bluffs
  • Horseshoe Council Bluffs
  • Isle of Capri – Bettendorf
  • Isle of Capri – Waterloo
  • Lakeside
  • Prairie Meadows
  • Q Casino
  • Rhythm City
  • Riverside
  • Wild Rose – Clinton
  • Wild Rose – Emmetsburg
  • Wild Rose – Jefferson

Are there any poker rooms in Iowa?

Yes. There are 9 live poker rooms in Iowa. They are located at the following casino properties:

  • Catfish Bend Casino, Burlington
  • Diamond Jo Casino – Worth, Northwood
  • Grand Falls Casino, Larchwood
  • Horseshoe Council Bluffs, Council Bluffs
  • Meskwaki Casino (Class II tribal), Tama
  • Prairie Meadows (racino), Altoona
  • Q Casino, Dubuque
  • Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, Riverside
  • WinnaVegas Casino Resort, Sloan

What games are available for play in Iowa?

Nearly every gambling game is available in Iowa. Slots, table games, racing, bingo, and sports betting are all offered somewhere in the state.

Can I gamble online in Iowa?

Generally speaking, no. Iowa has not moved forward with allowing online casinos in any capacity at this time.

What are all these casinos I see when I do a web search?

Online casinos that offer play for Iowans right now are offshore casinos. That is, they are casino operators that base their operations outside the US.

On its face, that’s not a bad thing. However, playing on these casinos bears a few unavoidable risks for Iowa residents.

First of all, its legality is murky, at best. Playing on them is, if not illegal outright, a gray area in the law.

Secondly, because they are outside Iowa and US jurisdiction, they are not subject to the same consumer protections that we enjoy inside the country. So, a player who ran into a dispute with an offshore site could find themselves with few resources to pursue legal action.

If you truly wish to play online, either visit one of the few states with online gambling (like New Jersey or Pennsylvania), or try one of the sweepstakes sites mentioned above. Any other options online are just too risky to be worth it.

Can I bet on sports online in Iowa?

Yes! There are now multiple online sportsbooks open for business in Iowa. You can play at one of the following sites now:

  • DraftKings Sportsbook
  • PointsBet Iowa
  • William Hill
  • Hard Rock
  • Elite Sportsbook
  • Q Sportsbook

The only catch is that Iowa law requires you to complete your registration and make your first deposit in person to get started. You will have to visit one of the online sportsbook’s land-based partners physically before you can place your first wager.

While that’s a pain, you only have to do it once. Then, you can bet until your heart’s content.

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