Iowa Online Gambling and Casinos

Latest news and updates for Iowa's online gambling laws

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 growing group of states with sports betting. However, to limit the discussion about Iowan gambling to sports would be a disservice everything else it offers. So keep reading to learn about all the types of gambling available in Iowa.

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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 in Iowa is still, by and large, a forbidden practice.

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

How online casino games work 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 sports betting, rather than introducing online casinos for Iowa

Chumba Casino

An option that Iowans can play are sweepstakes casino sites. Hard as it may be to believe, you can play many of your favorite slots and table games for real prizes through these sites.

The 3 main sweepstakes online casino sites are:

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

The top sweepstakes online casino 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.

So, through these sites, you now have access to the following games:

  • Slots (Chumba, LuckyLand, Funzpoints, Global)
  • Video Poker (Chumba)
  • Keno (Funzpoints)
  • Blackjack (Chumba, Global)
  • Roulette (Chumba)
  • Caribbean Poker (Global)
  • Texas Hold’em (Global)
  • Pot-Limit Omaha (Global)
  • Crazy Pineapple (Global)

Although the dual currency systems take a bit of adjustment, the truth of the matter is that there’s not much difference between these sites and true online casinos. You will find beautifully-rendered game options day and night on your phone or computer. All the sites are browser-based, so you don’t have to worry about downloading anything.

Other forms of IA online gambling

However, one bit of online gambling that Iowans can do is online sports betting. Thanks to the recent gambling expansion, there are now several Iowa online sportsbooks open for business in the state.

Iowa also made daily fantasy sports legal. Thanks to the passage of a 2019 law, top operators like DraftKings and FanDuel have free access to the Hawkeye State.

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.

What about online poker 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.

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.

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).

Gambling in the state of 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.

In addition to normal gambling games, you can bet on sports at many of these properties, since sports betting became legal. 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. There are now 16 retail sportsbooks in Iowa casinos.

Casinos in Iowa

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

CasinoTypeAddressPhone numberSportsbook?Poker room?
Ameristar Council BluffsCommercial2200 River Rd, Council Bluffs, IA, 51501(712) 328-8888YesNo
Blackbird Bend CasinoTribal17214 210th St, Onawa, IA 51040(712) 423-9646NoNo
Casino Queen MarquetteRiverboat100 Anti Monopoly, Marquette, IA 52158(800) 496-8238NoNo
Catfish Bend CasinoCommercial3001 Winegard Dr, Burlington, IA 52601(319) 753-2946YesYes
Diamond Jo CasinoCommercial301 Bell St, Dubuque, IA 52001(563) 690-4800NoNo
Diamond Jo Casino - WorthCommercial777 Diamond Jo Ln, Northwood, IA 50459(877) 323-5566YesYes
Grand Falls CasinoCommercial1415 Grand Falls Blvd, Larchwood, IA 51241(712) 777-7777YesYes
Hard Rock Sioux CityCommercial111 3rd St, Sioux City, IA 51101(712) 226-7600NoNo
Harrah’s Council BluffsCommercial1 Harrah's Blvd, Council Bluffs, IA 51501(712) 329-6000NoNo
Horseshoe Council BluffsCommercial2701 23rd Ave, Council Bluffs, IA 51501(712) 323-2500YesYes
Isle Casino BettendorfCommercial1777 Isle Pkwy, Bettendorf, IA 52722(610) 241-1616YesNo
Isle Casino WaterlooCommercial777 Isle of Capri Blvd, Waterloo, IA 50701(877) 475-3946YesNo
Lakeside Hotel & CasinoCommercial777 Casino Dr, Osceola, IA 50213(641) 342-9511YesNo
Meskwaki CasinoTribal - Class II1504 305th St, Tama, IA 52339(641) 484-2108NoYes
Prairie Flower CasinoTribal1031 Ave H East, Carter Lake, IA 51510(888) 946-6673NoNo
Prairie Meadows Casino, Racetrack, and HotelRacino1 Prairie Meadows Dr, Altoona, IA 50009(515) 967-1000YesYes
Q CasinoCommercial1855 Greyhound Park Rd, Dubuque, IA 52001(800) 373-3647YesYes
Rhythm City Casino ResortCommercial7077 Elmore Avenue, Davenport, IA 52807(563) 328-8000YesNo
Riverside Casino & Golf ResortCommercial3184 IA-22, Riverside, IA 52327(319) 648-1234YesYes
Wild Rose Casino - ClintonCommercial777 Wild Rose Dr, Clinton, IA 52732(563) 243-9000YesNo
Wild Rose Casino - EmmetsburgCommercial777 Main St, Emmetsburg, IA 50536(712) 852-3400YesNo
Wild Rose Casino - JeffersonCommercial777 Wild Rose Rd, Jefferson, IA 50129(515) 386-7777YesNo
WinnaVegas Casino ResortCommercial1500 330th St, Sloan, IA 51055(712) 428-9466NoYes

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

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.

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.

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’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 joined forces for online sports betting around the US with the completion of their merger in summer 2020. 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 Responsible Gambling

Many of life’s greatest joys have an intoxicating quality. We feel the rush of pleasure and want to experience the same feeling over and over. Unfortunately, for some Iowans, that joy comes from gambling, and the pursuit of that feeling leads many of them to desperate situations.

Problem gambling exists anywhere there is gambling. Fortunately, there are numerous resources in Iowa set up to assist sufferers and their families.

The most important resource for problem gamblers in Iowa is the state’s Department of Public Health, which runs YourLifeIowa.org. This website, which also contains help for other addiction maladies, has links to numerous resources for gamblers who are out of control.

There is a diagnostic quiz, a hotline to counselors at 1-800-BETS-OFF, and a live chat feature that will connect you with a gambling expert who can recommend various options to you. Any contact with the Iowa Department of Public Health will be held in the strictest of confidences. You can also find educational and reference materials about problem gambling there, too.

The IDPH is also supported by the Iowa Gaming Group, an advocacy organization that promotes safe, healthy gambling for entertainment. Visitors to the IGG site can find numerous resources, including (most notably) links to gambling addiction and problem gambling therapists and professionals.

These resources are available around the clock. There’s no reason to suffer a minute longer. If you need help, get help.

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