After an impressive effort by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC), legal sports betting is up and running in Iowa.
Eight casinos launched on day one, August 15. Since then others have joined and mobile sports betting is also available.
The launch came just three months after Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed bill SF617 into law. Importantly this meant that Iowans were able to place bets right from the beginning on the 2020 NFL season which started on September 5.
The drive for state regulated sports betting came from a US Supreme Court decision in May 2018. After a court case brought by New Jersey, the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.
The act created what was effectively a federal ban on sports betting. The Supreme Court ruled that this contravened states’ rights under the 10th amendment. Now Iowa is reaping the benefit of the return of powers to state government and sports betting is making great progress.
The thirteen casinos with sports betting in place during the permitted 17 days of August pulled in over $8.5 million of bets producing revenues of $2.2 million and state gambling taxes of $146k.
These numbers will rapidly increase. In the year since New Jersey introduced sports betting the state has seen $3.8 billion in bets and nearly $250 million of sports betting revenue. Before legalization most of this money would have flowed offshore to black market operators where Iowa customers had no legal protection.
For a comprehensive guide to the who, what, where and when of Iowa sports betting read on!
Iowa’s sports betting law
Iowa’s legislators have passed a law which sets the state up to get the maximum benefit from legal sports betting—with a couple of minor exceptions.
The SF617 law consists of a series of amendments to the existing Gambling Games Regulation. The main points of the law are:
- The regulator is the existing IRGC
- Gambling taxes levied on the operator’s revenues are 6.75 percent. This matches the rate in Nevada
- License fees are low compared to other states at $45,000 with a $10,000 renewal fee
- Sports betting licenses are restricted to IRGC licensed casinos
- Mobile sports betting is allowed
- Up to two brands (skins) are permitted for each licensee
- Until Jan 1, 2021 bettors who want to register for mobile sports betting must open their accounts in person at a casino
- No in-game prop bets are allowed on in-state college teams. Betting on other college games is allowed
Iowa’s new law got a vote of support from the American Gaming Association (AGA):
“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.”
Two weaknesses will limit the success of the new law
The first issue which reduces the potential success of sports betting is the requirement to register in-person for online accounts.
This will limit the early adoption of online sports betting to existing casino customers and those who are determined enough to visit their local casino. Note that the local casino may not be the one which offers the sports betting brand that a customer may actually want to use.
Secondly, Iowa has only authorized online sports betting. It has not legalized other online casino games such as slots, roulette or poker.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania both allow a wide variety of games and this makes a big difference. The research shows that restricting access to a wide range of online gambling reduces the rate at which people switch from the black market operators to the legal market.
Put this together with the delay to opening accounts online, and the expected profits for casinos and gambling taxes will be lower than otherwise. More importantly, it will still leave some Iowans at the mercy of offshore illegal operators where they have no legal protection.
Nevertheless, sports betting should go well. It helps that no neighboring states offer legal sports betting, although Illinois will launch sometime after July 2020.
Assuming sports betting goes well Iowa legislators will have an incentive to add other online gambling games in the future.
Where can I make legal sports bets in Iowa?
The IRGC licenses 19 casinos in Iowa. The thirteen which managed to get sports betting launched by the end of August 2019 are highlighted in bold.
The only casino which has not applied for a licence is the Casino Queen Marquette (in italics). It has an application in preparation.
|Ameristar Council Bluffs||Council Bluffs||Pottawattamie||DraftKings|
|Casino Queen Marquette||Marquette||Clayton||Unannounced|
|Catfish Bend||Burlington||Des Moines||PointsBet|
|Diamond Jo Casino||Dubuque||Dubuque||Fanduel & PlayMGM|
|Diamond Jo Casino – Worth||Northwood||Worth||Fanduel & PlayMGM|
|Grand Falls Casino||Larchwood||Lyon||Bet.Works|
|Hard Rock Sioux City||Sioux City||Woodbury||GiG|
|Harrah’s Council Bluffs||Council Bluffs||Pottawattamie||Scientific Games|
|Horseshoe Council Bluffs||Council Bluffs||Pottawattamie||Scientific Games|
|Isle of Capri||Bettendorf||Scott||William Hill|
|Isle of Capri||Waterloo||Black Hawk||William Hill|
|Lakeside Hotel & Casino||Osceola||Clarke||William Hill|
|Prairie Meadows||Altoona||Polk||William Hill|
|Rhythm City Casino Resort||Davenport||Scott||Bet.Works|
|Riverside Casino & Golf Resort||Riverside||Washington||Bet.Works|
|Wild Rose Casino and Resort||Clinton||Clinton||DraftKings & BetRivers|
|Wild Rose Casino and Resort||Emmetsburg||Palo Alto||DraftKings & BetRivers|
|Wild Rose Casino and Resort||Jefferson||Greene||DraftKings & BetRivers|
Top international sports betting brands come to Iowa
Four of the sportsbooks are operated by William Hill: Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, Lakeside Hotel & Casino, Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf, and Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo.
William Hill also launched the first mobile sports betting app in Iowa on August 21.
Elite Casino Resorts, which owns the Rhythm City Casino Resort has struck a deal with UK company BetFred to provide live and mobile sports betting. Using the Bet.Works brand, this is BetFred’s first venture into the US market.
Both William Hill and Bet.Works have launched live mobile applications. The other casino groups will follow shortly.
Each casino is allowed to launch two brands, so expect the market to become even more competitive. There could be a total of 38 brands offering online sports betting by the middle of 2020.
Other top US and international brands expected to launch in Iowa include:
- Caesars Sportsbook
- FOX Bet
How old do you have to be to bet in Iowa?
The minimum legal age for gambling in Iowa is 21.
What sports can I bet on in Iowa?
The typical range of sports betting options offered by both casinos and online operators includes:
- Auto Racing–NASCAR (including Monster Energy Series, Xfinity Series Truck Series); Formula One; IndyCar
- Baseball–MLB and MLB Draft; NCAA – Division 1; Minor League Baseball – Triple A
- Basketball–NBA and NBA Draft; WNBA and WNBA Draft; NCAA – Division 1; Euro League and Euro Cup; International Basketball Federation (country v. country qualifiers/games/tournaments)
- Bowling–Pro Bowling Tour
- Boxing–International Boxing Federation; WBA; WBC; WBO; Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports
- Cricket–Men’s and Women’s World Cup; International Cricket Council
- Football–NFL and NFL Draft; NCAA – Division I; Canadian Football League; Arena Football League
- Golf—PGA; PGA Tour Champions; LPGA; Champion’s Tour; European Tour; Senior European Tour; International Events (i.e. Ryders Cup, Presidents Cup); World Golf Championships; Koran Ferry Tour
- Hockey–National Hockey League and National Hockey League Draft; NCAA – Division 1; International Ice Hockey Federation; World Championships
- Lacrosse–NCAA – Division 1
- Mixed Martial Arts–Ultimate Fighting Championship; Bellator MMA; One Championship; Professional Fighters League; Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports
- Olympics–Summer and Winter (including trials)
- Rugby–Six Nations; World Cup; World Rugby (International country v. country qualifiers/games/tournaments); Four Nations
- Sailing–Americas Cup; International Sailing Federation
- Soccer–FIFA Sanctioned Events; Major League Soccer; UEFA – Champions League, EUROPA and Super Cup; English Premier League; Spanish La Liga; German Bundesliga; Italian Serie A; French Ligue 1; Mexican Liga Bancomer; NCAA – Division 1
- Softball–NCAA – Division 1
- Tennis–United States Tennis Association; Association of Tennis Professionals; Women’s Tennis Association; International Tennis Federation; NCAA – Division 1
- Track and Field–International Association
As mentioned above, the big exception under Iowa law is prop bets on in-state college sports.
What types of sports bets will Iowa offer?
Not only do modern sports books allow you to bet on an enormous range of sports, they also allow a lot of different bet types. Some of the most common are:
Moneyline bets are the easiest of all—which team will win a specific game. The Moneyline simply presents the odds of a team winning outright.
The odds are expressed as a positive or negative number e.g. -150 or +140. The plus and minus signs are important!
Odds expressed as -150 mean you have to bet $150 to win $100. If your winnings are less than the bet amount it means you’re betting on the favorite. Odds of +140 mean you win $140 for every $100 you bet. You are betting on the underdog.
An easy way to remember is “minus means less money plus means more money.”
Moneyline odds are used for a lot of the different bet types.
A parlay links two or more wagers into a single bet. The upside is that the bettor can win more money than betting on each game independently. The downside is that you have to win all the bets in the parlay or you walk away with nothing.
Parlays with several legs (each bet in the parlay is often called a leg) are extremely hard to win. On the other hand they offer the chance to win life-changing money for only a small initial stake.
Spread bets are the most popular form of sports betting in the US. To win you have to beat the spread which is a line set by the bookmaker. The point spread represents the difference between the winning and losing team’s scores.
These bets work well in games where many points are scored by both teams, but suit games like soccer less well.
The odds are always set slightly in the bookmaker’s favor and are typically offered at 11-10 odds. In other words you have to bet $11 to win $10.
Like all bets these are bets placed on an event in the future, but in this case, not the near future. In a futures bet you don’t bet on a match taking place tomorrow. Futures bets are placed on events well into the future, but normally within the same sports season.
If the NFL season begins in September and you place a bet on who will win the Super Bowl at the end of the season, then you have made a futures bet.
Totals bets are made on the score of both teams added together. You can bet on the “over” or the “under.”
There are variations, but the basic Totals bet is on the final score of the game. If you bet the over and the score is higher than the quoted number you win. If you bet the under and the score is lower you win.
For example in the recent match between the Dodgers and the Padres, the Totals bet was quoted as:
- LA Dodgers O 10.5 +100
- SD Padres U 10.5 -130
The odds aren’t exactly the same for the over and the under. The difference represents the price of the bet, and ensures the sportsbook makes a margin.
Teaser bets are points spread bets where the spread is adjusted by points in the player’s favor on more than one game. They are normally offered only on football and basketball games.
In football, a player may move the published point spread 6.5, 7, 10 or 14 points. In basketball, the options are 4, 5, or 6-points.
The bet is like a parlay because you are adding several wagers into one bet. In moving the point spread that applies to the bet you make the individual legs easier to win. Naturally the odds the sportsbook offers change depending on how far you shift the spread.
Calculating all this is easy when you place your bets online. Before you finally commit to making your bet, you can experiment with different options to get the payout you are looking for given how much you want to bet.
Round Robin bets
Round Robin bets allow you to lay several parlay bets at the same time in a single wager.
To create the bet you make a list of the teams you want in your parlays and the number you want in each parlay. E.g. you might choose to add 8 teams to your list with each parlay consisting of three legs. The round robin then creates a list of all the combinations of parlays for those three teams.
Unlike a standard parlay, you don’t have to win every wager in the bet to win. In a round robin you must win every leg of a parlay, then parlays you have won are added together to create your payout.
Calculating payouts is tricky if you try to do it by hand! The eight team three leg parlay above produces 56 different parlay bets. You must wager the same amount on each bet, so wagering $2 on each would produce a round robin with a total cost of $112.
The odds are different for each parlay, so in each case your $2 wager will produce a different amount if you win.
Fortunately, online mobile sports betting apps do all the work for you.
A lot of Iowans have accounts at offshore online sports betting sites. Not only is it illegal for these to offer sports betting, their product is far inferior to the legal operators. One of the biggest differences is in-game or in-play betting.
In-game betting refers to wagers made after a match has started. Most of the normal bets remain available because modern legal sports betting operators have access to near real time data feeds. This means they can adjust their odds as play progresses, second by second.
Offshore operators do not get access to these data feeds, so they can’t offer anything near the range of opportunities the legal market puts on the table.
In-game betting is one of the main reasons to switch from your offshore account to the legal operators in Iowa. Of course, you also get legal recourse in case something goes wrong, and you know your deposits are safe.
In mature sports betting markets like the UK, around 80 percent of all sports betting is now in-game betting. It’s extremely popular because it adds so much fun to watching a game—especially if you have friends around.
In-game bets can be as simple as who will score the next touch down, or what the score will be at the end of the next quarter. But many more betting options are available. When you get your first account set up, give it a try!
How do I start online sports betting in Iowa?
Until Jan 2021, all players must register in person to open an online account. This means going to your local casino.
At the moment only online sites operated by William Hill and Bet.Works are available. You can register for these sites by going to one of the following casinos:
William Hill online sportsbooks
- Prairie Meadows Casino: Opening hours; Mon-Fri: 10 AM – 12 AM, Sat: 8 AM – 1 AM & Sun: 8 AM – 12 AM. Address: 1 Prairie Meadows Drive, Altoona, IA 50009.
- Lakeside Casino: Opening hours; Mon-Fri: 10 AM – 12 AM, Sat: 8 AM – 1 AM, Sun: 8 AM – 12 AM. Address: 777 Casino Drive, Osceola, IA 50213.
- Isle Casino Bettendorf: Opening hours; Mon-Thurs: 10 AM – 12 AM, Fri: 10 AM – 1 AM, Sat: 8 AM – 1 AM, Sun: 8 AM – 12 AM. Address: 1777 Isle Parkway, Bettendorf, IA 52722.
- Isle Casino Waterloo: Opening hours; to be announced. Address: 77 Isle of Capri Blvd, Waterloo, IA 50701.
Bet.Works online sportsbooks
- Rhythm City Casino: Opening hours; Mon-Thurs: 11 AM – 11 PM, Fri: 11 AM – 1 AM, Sat: 10 AM – 1 AM, Sun: 10 AM – 11 PM. Address: 7077 Elmore Ave, Davenport, IA 52807.
- Riverside Casino: Opening hours; Mon-Thurs: 11 AM – 12 AM, Fri: 11 AM – 1 AM, Sat: 10 AM – 1 AM, Sun: 10 AM – 11 PM. Address: 2184 Hwy 22, Riverside, IA 52327.
- Grand Falls Casino: Opening hours; Mon-Fri: 12 PM – 12 AM, Sat: 8 AM – 12 AM, Sun: 10 AM – 12 AM. Address: 1415 Grand Falls Blvd, Larchwood, IA 51241.
Other online sites will be available soon. Check TheLines for the latest announcements.
Opening a mobile sports betting account online
After January 2021 the process gets a lot easier. No longer will you have to take a drive to get started sports betting.
First check the reviews of Iowa sportsbooks at TheLines and decide which best suits your needs. New player offers and bonuses change so make sure you get the best offer by using the sign-up link on the review page.
First you will need to download the app if you want to bet using your mobile. If you only use your computer, then downloads are not normally necessary, but it depends on the site.
On the sign-up page enter your personal details, then choose your screen name and password.
Before you can begin betting you will need to make a deposit. Again this is one advantage of using legal sportsbooks instead of offshore sites. Deposits are easy and there are many payment methods accepted.
If you have a sports betting account in another state where it is legal, you cannot use that account in Iowa. You will need to open a new account for your Iowa betting.
How do I deposit cash at an Iowa online sports betting site?
The deposit methods in available in Iowa will include:
- In person at the cashier’s cage of the casino offering the online app.
- Credit/debit cards
- Online bank transfer
- Casino prepaid cards
- ACH eCheck
Withdrawing your winnings is just as easy. Not all deposit methods allow withdrawals, e.g. PayNearMe, but most will be available.
A major advantage of the legal state-regulated sports betting market is that it is easy and fast to get your cash back. The offshore unregulated market takes much longer since US banks are not allowed to process their transactions. Another important reason to switch to the state-regulated Iowa sportsbooks.
Will I be able to play online poker and online casino games in Iowa?
No, only online sports betting is legal under the new laws. If you find yourself at a site that offers online casino games or poker, you have strayed onto a black market site or a site where you are not allowed to register from Iowa—best to leave. Use the links on TheLines review pages to make sure you are going to the official sports betting sites in Iowa.