Updated on February 21, 2020
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).
Currently, DraftKings online sportsbook is available in Iowa.
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. Every casino in the state has received a license to operate sports betting and all but the Queen Casino has launched a retail sportsbook.
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. Several already have.
What are the best legal sportsbooks in Iowa?
The best legal sportsbooks in Iowa really depend on preference and proximity to the bettor. All but one casino in the state has opened a sportsbook, giving sports fans in the Hawkeye state plenty of options. The current land-based Iowa sportsbooks are:
- Ameristar Council Bluffs
- Catfish Bend Casino
- Diamond Jo Casino Dubuque
- Diamond Jo Worth Casino
- Grand Falls Casino Resort
- Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sioux City
- Harrah’s Council Bluffs Casino & Hotel
- Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs
- Isle of Capri – Bettendorf
- Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo
- Lakeside Hotel Casino
- Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino
- Q Casino
- Riverside Casino and Golf Resort
- Rhythm City Casino
- Wild Rose Casino & Resorts – Clinton
- Wild Rose Casino & Resorts – Emmetsburg
- Wild Rose Casino & Resorts – Jefferson
The only thing holding back the Queen Casino in Marquette from opening a sportsbook is finding a sports wagering partner. Many of the major brands have already partnered with other casinos but there are others that may take the Queen Casino skin.
What are the top legal online betting sites in Iowa?
Betfred agreed to a partnership with Elite Casino Resorts in July 2019 and has almost certainly become one of Iowa’s top online sportsbooks. In tandem with Elite Casino Resorts, William Hill also was the first online sportsbooks in Iowa to launch. The total list of of IA online sports betting sites include:
- William Hill Sportsbook
- Elite Casio Sportsbook
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- PointsBet Sportsbook
- Q Casino Sportsbook
- Hard Rock Sioux City Sportsbook
There are also still other major sports betting websites that have not entered the market, including Bet365, FanDuel, BetMGM, and more. A timeline for the next operator to enter the market is unclear.
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.
Can I bet on the Iowa Hawkeyes or Iowa State Cyclones?
Yes, but there are restrictions to betting on collegiate sports in Iowa. You cannot place live bets on any of Iowa’s collegiate athletes. That rule is in effect wherever those athletes play.