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Iowa is among the states to have legalized both online and retail sportsbooks. Its sports betting bill, SF617, passed in May 2019 and the first legal bets in the state were placed later that year.
Launch day in the Hawkeye State was Aug. 15, 2019. It was the first state to launch retail and online operations on the same day. All told, nine retail sportsbooks and four apps went live on Day One.
As of early 2021, there were 18 retail sportsbooks operating in Iowa. Ten of them also offered online sports betting, with nine brands available between them.
Even online betting initially had an in-person registration requirement in Iowa. That’s an inconvenience to bettors and had been holding back revenue compared to states without such a requirement. The good news is that this situation was temporary and expired on Jan. 1, 2021.
Now, Iowans can register and bet online without ever having to visit a retail casino.
Like most states with legal online sports betting, Iowa’s betting apps are all associated with land-based partners. The situation is a bit complicated, however, because it’s not a one-to-one relationship.
Iowa has 19 brick-and-mortar casinos; all but one of which now has a retail sportsbook. Each of these can have up to two online brands, or “skins,” for its sportsbook. However, a single online operator can also have multiple land-based partners. This isn’t seen in most other states, but it’s something online companies took advantage of in Iowa because of the state’s previous in-person registration requirement.
Prior to Jan. 1, 2021, the only way to register for online sports betting was in person. Some operators therefore partnered with multiple casinos so that their customers would have a choice of where to register. That requirement is no longer in effect, yet those partnerships remain in place.
William Hill is a major brand in the UK, as well as the Nevada retail sportsbook scene. Elsewhere in the US, it doesn’t hold nearly as much name recognition.
It has managed to create a good position for itself in Iowa, however, having the most retail partners of any brand, as well as having been the first to launch. That made it the early market leader; and, as of early 2021, it has managed to hold onto that position. Although major national brands, like DraftKings and FanDuel, are closing in.
William Hill Sportsbook has a $500 risk-free bet offer for new customers, and some of the best sports betting guides that exist for beginners.
DraftKings, originally a daily fantasy sports company, has been sweeping the sports betting and iGaming sectors during the new wave of US gambling expansion. It’s known for innovation and its custom, in-house products.
It got off to a slow start in Iowa, having partnered with the more remote Wild Rose chain of casinos, which was inconvenient during the in-person registration period. Now that online registration is possible, it has been taking off and, along with BetRivers, has made Wild Rose the No. 2 license-holder in the state.
DraftKings Sportsbook will match 20% of your first deposit, up to a maximum of $1,000, and also give you a $50 free bet just for signing up.
BetRivers is the second skin for Wild Rose casinos, after DraftKings. Because the location of those casinos made in-person registration difficult, it waited to launch until that rule expired on Jan. 1, 2021.
BetRivers Sportsbook offers a 100% match on your first deposit, up to a $250 maximum. What’s great about that offer is that it has only a 1x playthrough requirement. Bet that $250 just one time, and the bonus money is yours to keep.
BetMGM is emerging as the national leader in online casino. For sports betting, it usually trails behind FanDuel and DraftKings, but is nonetheless a major force in that vertical, as well.
In Iowa, it actually works alongside FanDuel, partnered with Diamond Jo casinos. Together, they hold third place in the market, although they’re in very close contention with DraftKings/BetRivers.
BetMGM Sportsbook will give you a $600 risk-free bet to get you started. It also has a loyalty program, M Life Rewards, which is shares with MGM‘s retail hotels and casinos. It’s a luxury brand, targeting bigger spenders. So you won’t find as much in the way of little daily promotions for casual bettors as you might elsewhere.
FanDuel was DraftKings‘ major competition in the daily fantasy sports boom years, and that rivalry has continued into the legal sports betting era.
In 2017, it was acquired by Flutter (then Paddy Power Betfair), the world’s largest online gambling company. Flutter now also owns PokerStars and Fox Bet, though these don’t operate in Iowa at the moment.
FanDuel Sportsbook offers a massive $1,000 risk-free first bet for new users, and is known for frequent promotions like bet boosters and money back offers.
It’s unsurprising that Hard Rock Sioux City elected to launch under its own brand, rather than find a partner. It already has similar operations out of the Hard Rock Atlantic City. Gaming Innovation Group provides the technology.
Its signup bonus is just a humble $100 risk-free first bet. It does, however, have a loyalty program that includes Hard Rock’s retail properties, making it a good choice for fans of the brand.
Q Casino is another self-branded sportsbook, using IGT as the technology provider. It doesn’t operate in any other state, and hasn’t invested much in its platform. As a result, what you’ll find is a straightforward experience without many bells and whistles, and few if any promotions.
There’s nothing wrong with it if you’re a patron of the physical casino. However, if you’re an online-only bettor, there’s no particular reason to choose Q over one of the market leaders, which have better software, as well as signup bonuses.
Like William Hill, Elite decided to go with multiple casino partners to make up for a lack of brand power. It’s now a two-state operator, with Colorado being the other market you’ll find it in.
Elite had one glaring limitation, which was that it was web only at launch. It has since released a mobile app, but it’s a very stripped-down, basic product. If you plan to do most of your betting on a mobile device, rather than at your computer, it may not be the best choice.
On the other hand, it has a very interesting welcome offer. For your first five bets, Elite will give you a free bet worth half as much as you wagered, up to $200. To maximize this, you’d have to place five $400 bets, but you would receive five $200 free bets in return, for a total value of $1,000.
There are 19 casinos in Iowa which are eligible to offer sports betting. Eighteen of these have launched their sportsbooks already. The last, Casino Queen Marquette, is a riverboat casino which has applied for a sports betting license but hasn’t yet put it to use.
|Casino||Online App(s)||Retail Launch||Partner(s)|
|Ameristar Council Bluffs||None||August 15, 2019||Kambi|
|Casino Queen Marquette||None||TBD||TBD|
|Catfish Bend||PointsBet||August 15, 2019||PointsBet|
|Diamond Jo - Dubuque||FanDuel, BetMGM||September 4, 2019||FanDuel, BetMGM|
|Diamond Jo - Worth||FanDuel, BetMGM||August 30, 2019||FanDuel, BetMGM|
|Grand Falls||Elite Sportsbook||August 31, 2019||Betfred/Bet.Works|
|Hard Rock Sioux City||Hard Rock Sportsbook||December 19, 2019||Gaming Innovation Group|
|Harrah's Council Bluffs||None||August 26, 2019||Scientific Games|
|Horseshoe Council Bluffs||None||August 26, 2019||Scientific Games|
|Isle of Capri - Bettendorf||William Hill||August 15, 2019||William Hill|
|Isle of Capri - Waterloo||William Hill||August 15, 2019||William Hill|
|Lakeside||William Hill||August 15, 2019||William Hill|
|Prairie Meadows||William Hill||August 15, 2019||William Hill|
|Q Casino||Q Sportsbook||November 27, 2019||IGT|
|Rhythm City||Elite Sportsbook||August 15, 2019||Bet.Works|
|Riverside||Elite Sportsbook||August 15, 2019||Bet.Works|
|Wild Rose Clinton||DraftKings, BetRivers||February 19, 2020||FanDuel, BetMGM|
|Wild Rose Emmetsburg||DraftKings, BetRivers||February 19, 2020||FanDuel, BetMGM|
|Wild Rose Jefferson||DraftKings, BetRivers||February 19, 2020||FanDuel, BetMGM|
Here are all 18 places where you can currently place bets in person in Iowa. Gamblers can also use these to make cash deposits and withdrawals for the corresponding online sportsbooks. In several cases, there are multiple casinos operating under the same brand in different parts of the state.
Ameristar is one of three casinos in Council Bluffs, which is on the outskirts of Omaha. It’s the only one in town that’s not owned by Caesars. There are Ameristar Casinos in six different states, plus two Nevada casinos owned by the same company but operating under other names (Cactus Pete’s and Horseshu). In Iowa, Ameristar uses Kambi to power its retail sportsbook, but does not have an online app yet.
Catfish Bend is located in Burlington, in the southeast corner of the state by the Illinois border. It’s part of the larger Pzazz! Resort Hotel complex. Its partner for both retail and online betting is the Australian company PointsBet. That’s an exclusive arrangement. So Catfish Bend was the only place where bettors could register in person for PointsBet‘s online app.
PointsBet’s unique selling point is its eponymous points betting system. This style of betting is available for both spreads and game totals. Unlike standard bets on these lines, points bets aren’t a simple win/loss proposition. Rather, the amount you win or lose depends on the margin by which you make or miss your bet. For instance, if you place a $10 points bet on the Over when the line is 48.0, then a total score of 49 wins you $10, but a score of 50 wins you $20, and so on.
There are two Diamond Jo casinos in Iowa, one in Worth and one in Dubuque. The former is situated near the Minnesota border, along Interstate 35 about halfway between Minneapolis and Des Moines. The latter is right on the border with Illinois.
Diamond Jo is partnered with FanDuel for both retail and online betting, which is the biggest or among the biggest online sportsbooks in other states with online betting. At the moment, it’s the second-biggest sports betting app in the state, after William Hill. It subsequently launched a BetMGM app, as well.
Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort is located in Larchwood, in the extreme northwest corner of the state, close to Sioux Falls, SD. It’s one of three casinos in the state owned by Elite Casino Resorts, which has its own online sportsbook powered by Bet.Works. The Grand Falls retail sportsbook is operated by the British bookmaker BetFred, however, and uses that company’s branding.
Hard Rock is a well known casino brand, operating in nine states, plus two international locations. In Iowa, it has its own online sportsbook, powered by Gaming Innovation Group. It has no other locations in the state or ties to other brands.
Sioux City lies along the state’s western border with Nebraska.
The Harrah’s and Horseshoe Casino brands are both owned by Caesars Entertainment. These are located not far from one another in Council Bluffs; which, although located in Iowa, is part of the same metropolitan area as Omaha. Both have retail sportsbooks powered by Scientific Games and branded as “The Book,” but Caesars does not yet have an online sportsbook in the state.
There are two Isle of Capri Casinos, located in Bettendorf and Waterloo, both in the eastern part of the state. These are owned by Eldorado Resorts, which is expected to acquire Caesars this year. Their partner for both retail and online betting is William Hill. It is, by far, the largest operator in the state at the moment.
The Isle of Capri retail sportsbooks do only a modest amount of business. They were, however, important sign-up locations for the William Hill online app, which received more than 80% of the state’s online bets in early 2020.
Another William Hill partner is Lakeside Casino, owned by Affinity Gaming. Located in Osceola, south of Des Moines, it’s the smallest of the four partners in terms of sportsbook activity. Affinity Gaming owns seven casinos, all individually branded. The other six are in Nevada and Montana.
On the outskirts of Des Moines, Prairie Meadows is the largest casino in the state, in terms of revenue. Its retail sportsbook, operated by William Hill, does decent business, but is beaten by some of those located closer to state lines.
It is dominant in terms of mobile betting, however. William Hill has the highest-grossing app in the state by a large margin, and Prairie Meadows was responsible for the lion’s share of its sign-ups when Iowa required in-person registration.
Des Moines being the state’s largest population center, Prairie Meadows was the most convenient location for in-person registration for many residents. Thanks to this, many bettors with no strong brand preference ended up with William Hill until that restriction was lifted.
Q Casino (formerly known as Mystique) is located on Chaplain Schmitt Island in Dubuque, attached to the Iowa Greyhound Park. It has elected to go with its own branding for both retail and online sports betting operations, and uses IGT to power them.
Although it lacks the brand power of the likes of William Hill or FanDuel, it has done reasonably well for an independent operator.
Elite Casinos, which owns Grand Falls Casino, has two other properties in the eastern part of the state, in Davenport and Riverside. All three served as sign-up locations for the Elite Sportsbook app, powered by Bet.Works.
Rhythm City and Riverside both feature Elite branding for their retail sportsbooks, as well. In this regard, they differ from Grand Falls, which has a partnership with BetFred for retail betting.
There are three Wild Rose casinos in Iowa, in the towns of Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson. All three feature DraftKings-branded retail sportsbooks and served as sign-up locations for that company’s mobile betting app.
The DraftKings app only went live in mid-February 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 outbreak caused sports leagues to suspend their seasons. As such, it didn’t perform well at first, but has picked up since; especially once the in-person registration window elapsed. It’s now close to challenging William Hill for market leadership.
On Jan. 1, 2021, the same day that in-person registration expired, Wild Rose launched a second app, BetRivers.
Getting set up for online sports betting in Iowa is easy now that the in-person registration requirement has been lifted.
The first thing you need to do is select which app you want to use. You’ll want to take the available bonuses into account, as well as the quality of the software.
Registering is fairly straightforward, but will ask for a lot of personal information to establish your identity, due to regulatory requirements. Be prepared to submit scans or photos of your identification and proof of address.
The next step will be to fund your account using one of the following options:
Once you’re signed up and your account is funded, you’re ready to start betting!
You can bet on almost any standard sport in Iowa, including less popular ones, college sports and minor or foreign leagues. Popular choices include:
There’s one small restriction on college sports, which is that you can’t make proposition bets on in-state college teams. You can still make normal money line, spread and over/under bets on those games. You just can’t, for instance, bet on the points scored by one particular player if they or their opponents are playing for an Iowa college.
Iowa law makes no specific mention of eSports one way or another, and the regulator has not yet made a decision on those. However, PointsBet has said that it expects to get permission to allow betting on chess in the near future.
There are very few restrictions on the types of bets Iowa sportsbooks can offer on approved sports. Pretty much whatever sportsbook you choose, you can expect to find options like:
You can also combine bets as parlays (AKA accumulators), round-robins and so forth. The bigger and more popular the sport or event, the more types of bets you’re likely to find. The only specific restriction the state has imposed is the one against proposition bets on games involving in-state college teams.
Yes. There are no specific restrictions on live betting in Iowa. This popular form of betting allows online sportsbooks to present you with odds that are updated on the fly during a game, so that you can bet on the result even after play begins. In many cases, you can even cash out or modify bets you placed before the game.
Iowa has an extremely low tax rate for sports betting. It is set at just 6.75%, tied with Nevada‘s for the lowest in the country. However, all gambling operators in Iowa are required to make charitable contributions, as well; which effectively amounts to an extra tax. The rate established for sports betting operators is 0.75% of net receipts.
The licensing fees are also considerably lower than most states’, including Nevada’s, at $45,000 up front and $10,000 per year thereafter.
Sports betting in Iowa is considerably safer now that legal, regulated options exist. Even with the hassle of in-person registration, the benefits were worth it, and now more so than ever with that requirement gone.
Here are a few of the ways in which legal betting is a smarter option than choosing illegal offshore sites:
Here are some common questions and answers about the sports betting situation in Iowa:
Yes! There are nine online operators for you to choose from.
Not anymore. There was such a rule in place for the early days of the market, but it elapsed at the beginning of 2021. Now you can just download an app, register online and start betting.
Yes. This was possible even when in-person registration was still necessary. Once you have your account set up, you can add additional funds or cash out through the app.
Yes. All of the state’s 18 land-based commercial casinos now have a retail sportsbook. The only eligible location without one is the Casino Queen Marquette riverboat casino.
The short answer is that if you’re allowed into a casino, you’re also allowed to use the retail sportsbook and the online app. That means being 21 or older, not having self-excluded, and not being on any casino blacklists. The main additional exception for sportsbooks is that athletes, coaches, etc. cannot bet on sports they’re involved with.
When placing bets online, you have to be physically located in the state. Even if you’re an Iowa resident, you can’t bet while outside state lines.
All of the state’s commercial, tribal and riverboat casinos, and their online partners.
Yes, it is now legal. Compared with many states, Iowa was late in establishing laws relating to daily fantasy sports. The same bill which legalized sports betting, SF 617, also contained provisions for DFS.
Even so, DFS regulations are tighter in IA than they are most other places in the country. For one thing, DFS is currently restricted to professional sports only, although college sports will be allowed starting later this year.
Yes. Parimutuel betting on races has long been legal in the US under federal law. Some states have special restrictions against it, but Iowa is not among these. In fact, it has its own land-based racing industry as of 1983, and you can place bets at the racetracks (one horse track, one greyhound track) as well as online.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC). As the name implies, this is the same authority responsible for oversight of the state’s land-based casinos and racetracks.
Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission
DMACC Capitol Center
1300 Des Moines Street, Suite 100
Des Moines, IA 50309
E-mail: [email protected]
Iowa has had a relatively progressive approach to gambling during the past few decades, at least compared with many of its Midwestern neighbors.
Most forms of gambling were illegal until 1983, when the state legalized parimutuel wagering on horses. Greyhound racing followed two years later in 1985, along with a state lottery.
Casino gambling arrived in 1989. Initially, it was only in the form of riverboat casinos and had strict betting limits. Those limitations were lifted after just five years, and land-based casinos were authorized at that time. Now, only a single riverboat casino remains in the state.
After that, little changed until 2018, when state legislators made their first forays into sports betting legislation with House Study Bill 592. The following year, the state passed SF 617, legalizing sports betting and regulating the daily fantasy sports industry.
Everything went smoothly from that point on. There was no resistance from Governor Kim Reynolds and no need for a public referendum, unlike in some other states. Once Gov. Reynolds signed the bill into law, it only took three months before the first sportsbooks were able to open for business, which is an exceptionally short timeline.