One week ago yesterday, Governor Kim Reynolds signed SF 617 into law to legalize sports betting in Iowa. That means legal sports betting is now officially the law of the land.
It will still be some time before Iowans will be able to head to the nearest casino or fire up a sportsbook app to place real money wagers, but people are working hard behind the scenes right now to implement sports betting as quickly as possible.
Many things need to happen between now and the day the first legal wagers are booked in Iowa. Most importantly, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) must now get busy drawing up the various regulations that will govern retail sportsbooks and mobile betting apps alike.
Now that sports betting is legal in Iowa, we can turn our eyes forward and consider what still needs to happen before the first sportsbooks go live. Today, we’ll also be answering a variety of basic questions related to who can bet, where wagers can be placed and more.
What Happens Next
The Iowa state legislature has done the heavy lifting up until now between drafting the bill, debating it, counting votes and ultimately getting it to the desk of Governor Reynolds. Now that the governor has signed the bill, the burden shifts to the Racing and Gaming Commission.
The IRGC issued an update on Monday:
“On May 13, 2019, SF 617 was signed into law, which authorizes the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission to and regulate wagering on authorized sporting events and fantasy sports contests. At this time, the Commission is working to develop rules and standards of operation for these areas, including the ability to wager utilizing online accounts.
“In the coming months, we will continue to provide updates on the process and eventual implementation of this law, but until the process is in place, wagers on sporting events or fantasy sports contests are not allowed. If you have any questions about this process, or would like further information, please contact us.”
While the legislature dealt with sports betting from the big picture point of view, the Racing and Gaming Commission is tasked with filling in the nitty gritty details such as:
- Establishing a process by which casinos, employees and third-party entities may apply for licenses in the sports betting industry
- Reviewing and approving licenses
- Setting security standards operators must abide by to protect consumers’ funds
- Creating myriad rules governing things such as how quickly operators must pay winners, record-keeping requirements, how disputes between customers and sportsbooks are settled, how employees of sportsbooks must be licensed and much more
Basically, the IRGC has a monumental task ahead of it. The legislature set some baseline rules regarding tax rates, licensing fees and the authorization of mobile betting, but the IRGC will be expected to take care of everything else needed to run a functional, respectable sports betting industry.
When Can I Actually Bet on Sports in Iowa?
Commission administrator Brian Ohorilko recently said he thinks the best-case scenario is to have legal sports betting up and running by August 2019.
No hard start date has been announced as of yet because it depends on how quickly the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission can establish the requisite regulations and how quickly casino operators can launch their sports betting operations.
Ohorilko further explained that licensing each of the state’s casinos to accept sports wagers will be easy. He also pointed out the casinos themselves have already been vetted and are in good standing with the state as gambling operators.
However, the Commission will have to investigate any third-party companies the state’s casinos choose to partner with to run their retail sportsbooks and mobile betting apps. Ohorilko has cautioned casinos to choose their partners carefully in order to facilitate a hassle-free licensing process.
As far as drafting regulations, Ohorilko explained the Racing and Gaming Commission has wisely gotten a head start on that end. He said the Commission has spent “many, many hours reviewing regulations in other jurisdictions” and conducting research to prepare itself for this task.
Where Will I Be Able to Bet on Sports in Iowa?
Senate File 617 has authorized in-person and mobile sports betting. Each of Iowa’s 19 eligible casinos will be able to apply for licenses to host retail sportsbooks and launch mobile betting apps. Each casino will be allowed to operate up to two individually-branded betting sites.
Mobile Betting in Iowa
The new sports betting law in Iowa permits mobile sports betting across the state for anyone 21 or older and physically present within state lines. This is hugely convenient, but you will have to visit a casino in-person one time to register your online betting account.
After you have registered an account, you’ll be free to go and place bets from anywhere in the state. The in-person registration requirement is only effective until January 1st, 2021. From that day onward, new customers will be able to register for mobile betting accounts without having to visit the casino in person.
Retail Sportsbooks in Iowa
All 19 commercial casinos in Iowa will be allowed to apply for sports betting licenses and we imagine most will take advantage of the opportunity. Although sports betting itself is not a high revenue activity for the house, it does tend to attract foot traffic which is always good for business.
We also suspect most casinos will want to avoid being the only one in the area without a sportsbook. As soon as one casino in an area opens a sportsbook, others will have to follow or risk losing customers to the competition.
It is unknown at this juncture which casinos will for sure open sportsbooks, but we do know all the following will be given the opportunity to apply for licenses:
|Q Casino and Hotel
1855 Greyhound Park Road
|Horseshoe Council Bluffs
2701 23rd Avenue
|Ameristar Council Bluffs
2200 River Road
|Catfish Bend Casino
3001 Winegard Drive
|Diamond Jo Dubuque
301 Bell Street
|Diamond Jo Worth
777 Diamond Jo Lane
|Grand Falls Casino
1415 Grand Falls Blvd
|Harrah’s Council Bluffs
One Harrahs Blvd
|Isle Casino Bettendorf
1777 Isle Parkway
|Isle Casino Waterloo
777 Isle of Capri Blvd
|Casino Queen Marquette
100 Anti Monopoly
|Rhythm City Casino
7077 Elmore Avenue
3184 Hwy 22
777 Casino Drive
|Wild Rose Clinton
777 Wild Rose Drive
|Wild Rose Emmetsburg
777 Main Street
|Wild Rose Jefferson
777 Wild Rose Drive
|Prairie Meadows Casino
1 Prairie Meadows Drive
|Hard Rock Sioux City
111 3rd Street
What is the Minimum Sports Betting Age?
Iowa law restricts sports betting to people 21 or older.
What Are Casinos Doing to Prepare for Sports Betting?
Some of Iowa’s casinos began preparations for legal sports betting even before Governor Reynolds signed this bill into law. We expect to hear much more from casinos in the near future now that it’s official, but here’s what we know so far.
Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel took a gamble on sports betting earlier this year and moved forward with plans to convert the existing horse racing area on the 4th floor into a full-service sportsbook and racebook.
Construction is complete on the new sportsbook, so Prairie Meadows should be among the first to launch once regulators give the green light. Prairie Meadows is also partnered with William Hill to assist in mobile betting. Casino officials have confirmed they want to have mobile betting ready to go on day one.
Over in Burlington, Catfish Bend Casino has already commenced construction on its own sportsbook as well. Catfish Bend also has a partnership in place with experienced online betting operator PointsBet that will help the casino get up and running quickly.
Major daily fantasy / sports betting operators FanDuel and DraftKings will also be looking for a seat at the table in Iowa. FanDuel has confirmed it will be seeking an Iowa sports betting license and has partnered with Boyd Gaming to offer sports betting through both Diamond Jo casinos.
For its part, DraftKings may have a path into Iowa via its multistate partnership with Caesars Entertainment. The two linked up back in February through a deal that allows DraftKings to offer sports betting services to Caesars properties wherever sports betting is legal. In Iowa, that includes Horseshoe Council Bluffs and Harrah’s Council Bluffs.
Wild Rose Clinton also has plans in place to begin signing up new sports betting customers beginning in July. Wild Rose General Manager Steve Nauman recently told The Observer he believes sports betting will be ready by the start of the NFL season and is preparing accordingly. He says Wild Rose Entertainment is in talks with two potential sports betting partners and plans to launch a mobile betting app.
Ameristar Council Bluffs is likely to partner with DraftKings or William Hill as both mobile betting companies have existing relationships with Ameristar operator Penn National in other states.
Hard Rock Sioux City has three potential partners for Iowa sports betting in Bet365, Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) and the Kindred Group. All three companies have deals in place with Hard Rock in New Jersey. Which (if any) of these it chooses remains to be seen.
A day after Reynolds signed SF, Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood confirmed it too was in the process of launching a sportsbook. Grand Falls General Manager Sharon Haselhoff told KSFY the casino will be submitted plans to the IRGC next month and begin construction on a physical sportsbook shortly thereafter.
Industry analyst firm Eilers & Krejcik reports Grand Falls is in talks with Bet.Works to operate its sportsbook. The firm also reports Rhythm City Casino and Riverside Casino will be partnering with Bet.Works for sports betting.
Other casino operators in Iowa have likewise confirmed they are interested and will be seeking to join the party in short order. With the legislation now in place, we anticipate an influx of partnerships between land-based operators and online betting companies along with a flurry of construction as casinos prepare their in-person sportsbooks.