Iowa is a bit stricter than most states in regard to online betting. The state’s gaming laws limit social and online gambling to a great degree. Internet poker and online casinos are also prohibited at this time. That could change in the future, but for now the options are fairly limited.
However, the state is home to a handful of brick-and-mortar casinos and a few racetracks. Additionally, Iowa has no problem with online horse betting. Fantasy sports betting is currently illegal but that could change in the near future. The good news is state lawmakers seem open to the idea of expanding the list of legal betting options.
Let’s start with a list of sites that are expressly legal in Iowa and then discuss the legal situation in greater detail below.
Legal Horse Betting Sites in Iowa:
Restricted Betting Sites:
Horse and Greyhound Gambling
Horse racing is one of the few forms of betting permitted on the internet in Iowa. Anyone in the state may sign up for an account and place real money bets on horse races around the country. The major horse racing websites cover tracks around the world and provide all the same betting options that you would have in person. Most sites even provide live racing video that you can watch from the comfort of home.
Iowa is also home to three racetrack/casinos (racinos) that offer wagering and other gambling games. Licensed racetracks may host slot machines, video poker games and real money poker in addition to dog and horse betting.
Live Racetracks in Iowa:
Greyhound racing and live feeds from tracks across the country
Table games, poker room and 1,000 slot machines
1855 Greyhound Park Road
Dubuqe, IA 52001
Horseshoe Casino and Bluffs Run Greyhound Park
Greyhound racing and a full casino with table games, poker and 1,700 slots
2701 23rd Avenue
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino
Thoroughbred and quarter horse racing April through October
Casino with table games, poker and 2,000 slot machines
1 Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009
Iowa state gaming laws prohibit real money fantasy sports betting over the internet. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 Iowans participate in fantasy leagues already – they just can’t do it online. Fantasy sports associations have lobbied to get the laws changed but to no avail so far.
A bill proposed in 2013 sought to allow Iowa to join the long list of states that allow online fantasy betting. It looked likely to pass but couldn’t quite get the support it needed before the Iowa legislature adjourned in 2014.
There doesn’t appear to be a strong opposition to fantasy sports in the state. The only reason the activity is illegal in the first place is due to vague legislation that broadly defines gambling as just about anything involving money. Iowa doesn’t have a history of prosecuting players, but all the legit fantasy betting sites err on the side of caution and do not accept real money players from the state.
Two other bills introduced in each house sought to legalize fantasy sports in 2015 eventually died in 2016 and were not taken up again. These bills were followed by yet another bill, Senate Study Bill 3181, but that one too was defeated in 2016.
Undeterred, lawmakers in Iowa made another push to legalize and regulate fantasy sports in 2017. That bill also seeks to legalize fantasy sports, issue licenses to companies, implement a 7.5% tax on revenues and prohibit anyone under 21 from participating. These constant pushes for fantasy sports show there is a desire among lawmakers in Iowa and it is most likely just a matter of time before the major fantasy sites return to Iowa.
The 2017 bill lost steam before making it into law, but that bill never completely died. There is support among some lawmakers to revive that bill in 2018.
Sports Betting in Iowa
In December of 2017, the Iowa Gaming Association (IGA) announced plans to begin crafting sports betting legislation on the chance that the federal prohibition of sports betting is repealed. This plan came about during New Jersey’s Supreme Court case seeking to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
The IGA is working to that effect right now, but any legislation they draft will be contingent upon the federal ban being lifted. As long as the federal prohibition remains in effect, individual states are prohibited from legalizing sports betting.
Early reports state the Supreme Court may actually be leaning towards siding with New Jersey. If that happens, Iowa may become one of the early adopters of sports betting. However, any sports betting legislation would have to go through the same channels as any other state-level legislation. Currently, support for sports betting appears mixed. Some lawmakers are in favor; others are against. This is another story we will be following closely over the next year.
Two poker bills have been proposed in Iowa over the last few years. Neither bill managed to become law before the close of the 2014 legislative season. Even so, things look promising for Iowa online poker. Lawmakers in Iowa have said they’re interested in seeing how New Jersey’s foray into poker goes and will consider writing up new legislation in 2015.
Iowa Senate File 2275 was proposed in 2012 as a means to license additional land-based casinos and internet poker. If passed, the bill would have included a bad actor clause (sites that previously accepted wagers in the US contrary to the UIGEA would not be eligible for licensing) and it would have been open to sharing player pools with other states.
Senate File 2275 never made it into law and was eventually replaced with Senate Study Bill 1068 in 2013. SSB 1068 had much in common with SF 2275 including a bad actor clause and licensing criteria for operators. This one also failed but hope remains.
Iowa’s hopes for online poker do remain alive although there hasn’t been much movement on the issue in recent years. Most legislators aren’t outright opposed to the idea of online poker; it’s more a matter of agreeing on all the details.
Land-based gambling is widespread in Iowa but there is no political will to introduce legislation for online casinos. Past legislative attempts have all focused on getting internet poker legalized without any mention of gambling. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for internet casinos in Iowa.
Not including the racinos mentioned above, there are 14 brick-and-mortar casinos spread across the state. This includes a mix of riverboats and traditional casinos. Although it will be at least a few years before you can gamble on your computer in Iowa, you’re probably not too far from a traditional casino.
Brick and Mortar Casinos in Iowa:
Ameristar Casino Hotel Council Bluffs
38,500 square foot casino with table games and 1500 slot machines
2200 River Road
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
Argosy Sioux City
The Argosy closed in 2014 after its local partner refused to sign a renewal agreement with the casino. This caused the casino’s license to lapse and the state refused all requests to reconsider. Read more here.
Catfish Bend Burlington
18 table games, 700 slot machines and a live poker room.
Adults-only hotel with 40 suites and spa service
3001 Winegard Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Diamond Jo Dubuque
Table games and 975 slot machines
Bowling alley, two bars and live events
301 Bell Street
Dubuque, IA 52001
Diamond Jo Worth
Table games, live poker room and more than 1,000 slots
777 Diamond Jo Lane
Northwood, IA 50459
Grand Falls Casino and Golf Resort
900 slot machines, poker room and table games
World class golf course by Rees Jones
Hotel, three restaurants, pool and spa
1415 Grand Falls Blvd.
Larchwood, IA 51241
Harrah’s Council Bluffs
Table games and 1000 slot machines
Hotel, three restaurants and three lounges
1 Harrahs Blvd
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
Isle of Capri Bettendorf
1,000 slots, live poker room and table games
Hotel and 3 restaurants
1777 Isle Parkway
Bettendorf, IA 52722
Isle of Capri Waterloo
950 slot machines, 23 table games and live poker room
Hotel, three restaurants and a bar
777 Isle of Capri Blvd
Waterloo, IA 50701
Lady Luck Marquette
550 slot machines plus blackjack, craps, Mississippi Stud, Ultimate Texas Holdem and 21+3
Two restaurants and a sports bar
100 Anti Monopoly
Marquette, IA 52157
30,000 square foot casino with 870 slots and 12 table games
Buffet and live events
101 West River Drive
Davenport, IA 52801
Riverside Casino & Golf Resort
1,090 slots, 30+ table games and a 14-table poker room
Hotel, golf course by Rees Jones, four restaurants and spa
3184 Highway 22
Riverside, IA 52327
Lakeside Hotel and Casino
1,000 slot machines and table games
150-room hotel, 47-site RV park, two restaurants and a sports bar
777 Casino Drive
Osceola, IA 50213
Wild Rose Casino & Resort
554 slot machines, 11 table games and 1 poker table
60-room hotel with 6 luxury suites
777 Wild Rose Drive
Clinton, IA 52732
Wild Rose Emmetsburg
16,000 square foot casino with slots, table games and 70-room hotel
2 restaurants, bar and coffee shop
777 Main Street
Emmetsburg, IA 50536
Iowa Electronic Markets
The Iowa Electronic Market is the only legal way to bet on political elections right now, run by the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. The school got a limited exception to the federal laws against betting on elections because they set it up as a teaching tool to study the predictive power of markets, and because the real-money bets are small (each account can funded with a total of only $500).
The IEM allows users to buy and sell contracts based on future political events and national fiscal policy. Essentially, contracts are created for each side of an outcome such as the Presidential election. Users may then buy and sell these contracts at whatever value they deem appropriate. Market forces tend to dictate the value of each contract.
For example, a contract on the next President being a Republican would be worth $1.00 if the Republic nominee does indeed win. The contract becomes worthless if the Democrat wins. During the lead-up to the election, people might buy and sell each contract for, say, $0.55 if they think the Republican has an advantage.
Interestingly, the IEM has proven to be quite accurate as a prediction tool. It has often predicted election outcomes more accurately than standard polls. So far, it indicates that market forces acting on real money contracts lead to greater accuracy in predicting the future.
The IEM is open to participants from around the world. If you’re interested in giving it a shot, you can read all about it here.