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Legal Sports Betting in Iowa

Daniel Smyth
Bet on sports at Harrahs Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Image: Caesars Entertainment)

Current Sports Betting Status: Legal And Operational

Updated – September 26, 2019

The 11th US state to legalize sports betting, Iowa now joins the likes of New Jersey and Nevada as a region where regulated sportsbooks can thrive. The bill that tipped the balance and made Iowa sports betting a reality was Senate File 617 (SF617). Introduced to the state Senate in April of 2019, the bill was the successor to SF366 (SSB1168).

Essentially finishing what the other started, SF617 won the approval of lawmakers and, ultimately, Governor Kim Reynolds for a number of reasons. During discussions, one of the main concerns was the status of mobile sports betting in Iowa. Despite identity checks and geolocation software being in place, the decisionmakers pushed for a unique clause.

Today, those who want to bet online in Iowa will have to first register an account inside a licensed brick-and-mortar casino. Although this provision will only remain in place until January 2021, it’s something that’s slightly more restrictive than what’s in place in other states. Aside from what some may see as a minor inconvenience, Iowa’s sports betting bill is both comprehensive and fair.

In fact, the American Gaming Association (AGA) believes it strikes the right balance between consumer protection and commercial optimization. Whether this is born out by reality, only time will tell. However, we know that the licensing conditions are less restrictive than in other states. Indeed, when Reynolds signed off on SF617 in May, it opened the door to both live and online betting.

As per the bill, local casinos will be able to offer pre-event and in-play sports bets. What’s more, license holders will be allowed to operate two online skins. To take advantage of these conditions and become a legal Iowa sportsbook, operators will have to pay a $75,000 licensing fee plus a $10,000 renewal charge. Additionally, the tax rate on sports betting revenue is 6.75% (this is lower than most states). Overall, the future certainly looks bright for sports betting in Iowa.

Iowa Sports Betting Timeline

Iowa’s successful sports betting bill was actually the product of previous Senate submissions. However, in reality, the history of SF617 is the only thing that matters for sports fans and Iowa bookmakers.

February 2019 – SF366 was submitted to the Iowa Senate on February 25 as a way of introducing sports betting, tax and a regulatory framework. The bill was read for the first time under Rule 28 and added to the calendar. On the same day, it received a recommendation from the Committee. By February 26, SF366 was referred to the Ways and Means under Committee under Senate Rule 38.

April 2019 – SF366 eventually stalled but its momentum gave SF617 the chance to thrive. An initial meeting took place in April before a fiscal note was added in support of the bill. By April 22, the House had amended and passed the bill, meaning it moved back to the Senate for approval.

May 2019 – Thanks to previous support for SF366 and a positive vote by the House, it didn’t take long for the president and speaker of the Senate to give their approval. By signing the bill on May 6, SF617 was sent to Governor Reynolds.

Just seven days after clearing the Senate, Gov. Reynolds put pen to paper and made legal sports betting in Iowa a reality.

August 2019 – The first sportsbooks in Iowa were launched on August 15, 2019. Several of them opened retail only sportsbooks, however, others launched mobile sports betting apps in Iowa that same day. William Hill was the first major online operator to open for business in the state, but more operators are expected to join the Iowa sports betting industry over time.

Where Can I Bet on Sports in Iowa?

Under the terms of SF617, all casinos in the state can host their own sportsbook. In practice, this means those within state lines have the potential to bet on sports at 19 different venues. Although there may be some casinos in Iowa that don’t exercise their right to offer sports betting, it’s expected the majority will.

What’s more, every license holder has the option to run two online betting sites. Quite how the virtual landscape will look is unclear at this point. However, it’s likely many of the major brands will link up with a live venue in the coming months and years.

What are the best legal sportsbooks in Iowa?

Although the list may grow as legal sports betting in Iowa evolves, the first group of operators given the green light to open sportsbooks were:

  • Ameristar Council Bluffs
  • Catfish Bend
  • Isle Waterloo
  • Isle Bettendorf
  • Lakeside
  • Prairie Meadows
  • Riverside
  • Rhythm City

Of the eight casinos authorized by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, six now offer mobile sports betting in Iowa.

What are the top legal online betting sites in Iowa?

Betfred agreed to a partnership with Elite Casino Resorts in July 2019 and will almost certainly become one of Iowa’s top online sportsbooks. In tandem with Elite Casino Resorts, the following casinos will work with William Hill to offer online and mobile sports betting:

  • Isle Waterloo
  • Isle Bettendorf
  • Lakeside
  • Prairie Meadows

Additionally, Bet.Works supplies the software and technical expertise for online betting platforms operating under the licenses of Riverside, Rhythm City and Grand Falls Casino & Gold Resort.

Iowa Sports Betting FAQ

What is the legal sports betting age in Iowa?

To bet on sports in Iowa, you need to be 21 or older.

What is the Iowa sports betting tax rate?

Licensed sportsbooks in Iowa will have to pay an upfront fee of $75,000 (plus a $10,000 renewal fee) and 6.75% tax on sports betting revenue.

Can I bet on sports online in Iowa?

Yes. Every licensed operator can run two online/mobile sports betting sites. To register, you’ll need to visit an online platform’s retail casino partner. This rule will remain in place until January 2021.