Sports betting is legal and widely available in Iowa. Most of the state’s casinos operate a retail sportsbook, and many have launched mobile betting apps allowing customers to wager online from anywhere within the Hawkeye State.

Iowa sports betting law originally called for in-person registration, but lawmakers scheduled that provision to phase out on January 1st, 2021. From here on out, anyone 21 or older may sign up and bet online from anywhere within state lines.

Sports betting isn’t the only form of legal online gambling in Iowa. The state also regulates online horse racing betting and daily fantasy sports. For all three forms of online betting, Iowa law requires operators to hold appropriate licenses and conform to various consumer protection regulations.

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Legal Horse Betting Sites in Iowa:

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Iowa Sports Betting

Iowa legalized sports betting in 2019 with the passage of SF 617. Under state law, each Iowa casino that holds a sports betting license may operate a retail sportsbook on casino property and up to two individual mobile betting platforms, also known as “skins.”

Nearly all of Iowa’s casinos now operate retail sportsbooks, and most offer online betting to customers across the state.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) is responsible for overseeing sports betting. Those duties include issuing licenses and ensuring compliance with all applicable regulations.

Here’s what readers need to know about Iowa sports betting:

  • Customers must be 21 or older to bet on sports in Iowa
  • Online and mobile betting is permitted
  • Remote registration is permitted (in-person registration was required until January 1st, 2021)
  • Wagering on pro and college sports is permitted, but player prop bets on Iowa college games are prohibited

Mobile Sports Betting in Iowa

Mobile sports betting is legal and regulated in Iowa. Customers must be 21 or older and do not need to be residents to participate. However, online wagers are only authorized within state lines.

In-person registration is no longer required before placing wagers online. Bettors may register, deposit, and place wagers from anywhere inside Iowa.

Each casino may launch up to two separate online betting platforms in partnership with licensed third-party providers such as FanDuel and DraftKings. Each platform may also include a mobile betting app.

The following table displays a list of mobile sportsbooks that have either already launched or that will launch soon, along with a list of their partner casinos.

Betting SiteIs it live?Land-Based Casino Partner
   
William Hill MobileYesPrairie Meadows
Lakeside Casino
Isle Casino Waterloo
Isle Casino Bettendorf
Harrah’s Council Bluffs
Horseshoe Council Bluffs
Elite SportsbookYesRiverside Casino
Rhythm City Casino
Grand Falls Casino
FanDuel MobileYesDiamond Jo Worth
Diamond Jo Dubuque
PointsBet MobileYesCatfish Bend Casino
BetRiversYesWild Rose Jefferson
Wild Rose Clinton
Wild Rose Emmetsburg
DraftKings MobileYesWild Rose Jefferson
Wild Rose Clinton
Wild Rose Emmetsburg
Hard Rock OnlineYes Hard Rock Sioux City
Q SportsbookYes Q Casino and Hotel
Betfred SportsbookYesRiverside Casino
Rhythm City Casino
Grand Falls Casino
Unibet SportsbookNo Harrah’s Council Bluffs
888SportNoCatfish Bend Casino
Bally BetsNoGrand Falls Casino

Barstool Sportsbook is also likely to enter Iowa at some point but has not officially announced a partner or plans. However, Barstool Sportsbook is partnered with Penn National Gaming, which operates Ameristar Casino Council Bluffs.

Retail Sportsbook Locations

Sports betting began in Iowa in August 2019 with the launch of seven sportsbooks at casinos across the state on a single day.

All but one of Iowa’s 19 commercial casinos operate retail sportsbooks. Casino Queen Marquette remains the only casino without a sportsbook today, but it does hold a sports betting license.

Iowa Sports Betting Law

IA Code § 99F lays the foundation for legal sports betting in Iowa, while additional regulations crafted by the IRGC fill in the details to establish a well-regulated industry.

Key Sports Betting Regulations

  • Each casino may operate up to two independently branded betting sites/apps
  • Casinos pay a $45,000 sports betting licensing fee and $10,000 per year after that
  • Sports betting operators to pay 6.75% tax
  • Wagers allowed on pro and college sports but not on esports

How Iowa Legalized Sports Betting

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 would be repealed. This plan came about during New Jersey’s Supreme Court case to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

The Supreme Court did end up striking down PASPA, and that cleared the way for lawmakers to act. After one failed attempt to legalize sports betting in 2018, lawmakers moved again in 2019 to pass legislation that would bring in-person and online betting to Iowa.

The 2018 effort began with House Study Bill 592 seeking to legalize and regulate sports betting. If passed, HSB 592 would have legalized wagering on professional and college sports at local casinos, racetracks, and via licensed online sports betting sites. That bill never made it through the legislative process, but it set the stage for more legislation to come the following year.

In 2019, lawmakers introduced SF 617 to legalize retail sportsbooks and allow local casinos to apply for mobile sports betting licenses. The bill sought to allow each casino to operate up to two separate betting sites, accept wagers on pro and college sports, and legalize daily fantasy sports.

The Iowa House and Senate both approved the bill to send it to the desk of Governor Kim Reynolds. Governor Reynolds signed the bill in May 2019, officially legalizing sports betting in Iowa. The first sportsbooks and betting apps went live just a few months later.

Horse Racing Betting in Iowa

Horse racing betting is legal in Iowa and regulated by the IRGC. Customers must be 21 or older and physically located within state lines to place wagers via authorized horse racing betting sites (ADWs).

The state does not issue licenses to individual ADWs, but several major operators provide online and mobile betting to Iowans. Trackside parimutuel wagering is limited to the state’s single racetrack, Prairie Meadows in Dubuque. Prairie Meadows, the Iowa Greyhound Park, and several casinos operate off-track betting parlors (OTBs) where customers can place wagers on races held anywhere in the country.

Read more:

Iowa Daily Fantasy Sports

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) are now legal in Iowa. The state was one of the last few holdouts that prohibited DFS sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings up until 2019. The law authorizing traditional sports betting also included language also legalizing daily fantasy contests.

At one point, it was estimated 1 in 10 Iowans participated in fantasy leagues prior to the passage of the 2019 law. The fantasy sports prohibition in Iowa was surprising, as opposition to the activity was never very strong. Rather, the biggest problem in Iowa was longstanding state laws that define gambling as just about anything involving money and even a hint of chance.

With those factors in mind, it made more sense to regulate and tax the industry rather than continue to fight a losing battle. Fantasy sports associations also pushed for years to get fantasy sports legalized and have finally seen their efforts pay off now that the state licenses and regulates DFS sites. DraftKings was the first to successfully apply for a DFS license and launched for Iowa residents in October 2019.

The Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission (IRGC) is responsible for overseeing traditional sports betting and daily fantasy sports. DFS operators are now required to apply for a license from the IRGC and pay $5,000 upon successful licensure. The law has also established a 6.75% tax payable by operators.

Fantasy sites are also required to implement reasonable standards for safety and fairness, such as preventing athletes from participating in DFS contests, keeping customer funds in a segregated account for safekeeping, and ensuring all customers are at least 21 years old.

Two other bills introduced in each house sought to legalize fantasy sports in 2015 eventually died in 2016. 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.

That same bill was reintroduced in 2018 and quickly made it through a House subcommittee. House File 613 was identical to the 2017 version with a proposed 7.5% tax rate, minimum age of 21, and various consumer protection regulations. This bill also failed to make it far along in the process.

Online Gambling in Iowa

Online casinos and poker are illegal in Iowa.

IA Code § 725.7 provides a wide-ranging definition of illegal gambling that covers all forms of online gaming not expressly authorized by the state:

1. Except as permitted in chapters 99B and 99D, a person shall not do any of the following:

a. Participate in a game for any sum of money or other property of any value.

b. Make any bet.

c. For a fee, directly or indirectly, give or accept anything of value to be wagered or to be transmitted or delivered for a wager to be placed within or without the state of Iowa.

d. For a fee, deliver anything of value which has been received outside the enclosure of a racetrack licensed under chapter 99D to be placed as wagers in the pari-mutuel pool or other authorized systems of wagering.

e. Engage in bookmaking, except as permitted in chapters 99E and 99F.

The expansive nature of Iowa’s stance on illegal gambling is partially why even fantasy sports sites refused to operate in Iowa until legislation specifically authorizing DFS was passed. Similarly, online gambling is clearly prohibited, both for operators and players.

The state saw two attempts to legalize online poker in 2012 and 2014, but both failed to advance. Lawmakers have never seriously considered legalizing online casinos in Iowa.

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). It would have opened Iowa 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. SSB 1068 died in committee a month after its introduction.

Over the intervening years, Iowa lawmakers have taken no further action to legalize online gambling. There appears to be no desire among the legislature to authorize online gambling at this time.

Iowa is home to the only legal election betting website, Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM).

IEM is run by the University of Iowa’s Henry B. Tippie College of Business and allows politically minded people from around the world to wager on the outcomes of real-world events, particularly US elections.

The IEM website explains the basic idea in simple terms:

The Iowa Electronic Markets is a futures market run for research and teaching purposes. Traders can buy and sell real-money contracts based on their belief about the outcome of an election or other event. Using this “wisdom of crowds,” the price of a contract at any given time is a forecast of the outcome.

IEM is not licensed or regulated as a sports betting operator or financial trading platform, but it is permitted to operate in the US because it is run for research purposes and does not generate a profit.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has issued two no-action relief letters in response to queries from IEM asking for permission to operate. Those letters (here and here) explain that the CFTC will not pursue legal action against IEM for as long as it operates in its current format.

IEM is open to customers worldwide but limits each individual to invest between $5 and $500 as it is designed for research purposes only.

Readers interested in participating or learning more can visit the Iowa Electronics Market website here.

With IEM, users trade contracts based on future political events, national fiscal policy, and other future events. In simple terms, IEM creates contracts for each side of an outcome in an event such as the Presidential election. Users may buy and sell contracts at whatever value they deem appropriate, much like a traditional exchange. Generally, market forces dictate the value of each contract.

For example, a contract on the next President being a Republican would expire at a value of $1.00 if the Republican nominee goes on to win the election. Likewise, that same contract would expire worthless if the Democrat candidate wins. During the run-up to the election, people would buy and sell contracts for each candidate in an attempt to cash in on their prediction.

To continue our example, if the Republican is perceived to be slightly ahead, contracts on that candidate might trade at $0.55 by traders hoping to cash in on that candidate’s victory, which would result in each contract expiring at $1.00

IEM has, at times, proven to be more accurate at predicting future outcomes than traditional polling data, hence the continued interest in the project.

1983

Horse Racing

Parimutuel wagering is legalized in Iowa.

1983
1985

Lottery

The Iowa Lottery is legalized and launches.

1985
1989

Casino Gambling

Iowa legalizes riverboat gambling. The riverboat mandate was lifted in 1994, spurring on a commercial and tribal casino boom.

1989
2006

Iowa Electronic Model

The Iowa Election Model is a political predictive tool run by the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. The IEM is regulated by the SEC that allows users to buy and sell contracts for future political events.

2006
2019

Sports Betting

Iowa legalized retail and mobile sports betting in 2019.

2019
2019

DFS

After several failed attempts, the legislature also legalized daily fantasy sports in 2019

2019