Iowa Set To Launch Sports Betting on August 15

Iowa will officially launch sports betting on August 15. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation into law in May and the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission has signed off on the initial sports betting rules. The rules provide for in-person, online and mobile betting statewide. Starting at 12 noon Central Time on Thursday, the board will be open for betting. With sports betting delayed by a couple of weeks in Indiana and for who knows how long in Illinois the ‘Hawkeye State’ will be the first in the Midwest.

If you want to puruse all 61 pages of the state’s initial sports betting rules you can do so here:

IOWA SPORTS WAGERING AND FANTASY SPORTS RULES (Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission)

Overall, the sports betting ecosystem in Iowa looks pretty good and should immediately become one of the top 5 in the country. There are a few minor components to take issue with but surprising few. The state has 19 licensed casinos and sports betting will be available at launch or soon after in 18 of them. Of the 18 casinos prepared to offer in-person betting there are 15 with current plans to offer a mobile/online component. Casinos can partner with separate third party vendors though there is a misguided limit of two ‘skins’ per licensee.

IOWA SPORTS BETTING: WHAT’S GOOD

There is significantly more good than bad in Iowa’s sports betting regulatory framework. For starters, the state has kept taxes and license fees low in marked contrast to neighboring Illinois which has an almost comical $5 million (in some cases higher) licensing fee with a 15% tax rate. Iowa will have a 6.75% tax on sports betting revenue which will be the lowest in the country along with Nevada. Spoiler alert–the gaming industry has worked out pretty well in Nevada and credit to Iowa for matching their tax rate.

The license fee is considerably higher than Nevada’s $750 but at $45 thousand it’s reasonable. Since the prevailing mentality among the states jumping on the bookmaking bandwagon is to try to extort as much money as possible out of taxes and fees instead of building a thriving sports betting marketplace and the revenues that come with it the $45 grand is sadly among the lowest in the country. There will also be a $10 thousand annual renewal fee.

Most of the betting specific rules and regulations also look a lot like Nevada’s. The opening day list of betting sports also looks complete for a North American facing sportsbook. There are few notable omissions among international sports but the appearance is that the list will grow over time. The regulations have the following verbiage that suggests more wagering sports will be forthcoming:

“Any wager offering not explicitly stated for which a sports wagering facility operator or advance deposit sports wagering operator would like to offer, should be submitted by application to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for investigation and approval.”

There are no wagering limits established by law though the regulations specify an “easy and accessible way” for customers to set deposit, wager or time limits. As far as the specific betting limits these will be left up to the licensees.

IOWA SPORTS BETTING: WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

Mobile and online betting will require a physical visit to the casino to set up an account and prove their identity. Unfortunately, it sounds as if the account will also be required for in-person betting. The ‘in person’ requirement isn’t a big deal in Nevada where the majority of the population lives in Clark and Washoe Counties. It’s a bigger deal in Iowa where it’s over 300 miles border to border East to West and North to South. For some reason, this requirement will exist only until January 1, 2021. The most likely reason for this is a bone for the status quo gaming industry–it’s good business for them to force players to physically come to their property.

One of the few limitations on specific bet types is a bizarre one–while Iowa state colleges will be available for most bets the regulations prohibit ‘in-game prop bets’ on in state teams. From a practical standpoint, it makes little difference that you can’t live bet on props involving, say, the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team. It’s simply the by-product of some politician with no understanding of sports betting looking for an illusory ‘concession’.

The limitation of two ‘skins’ per casino is also pointless and serves only to limit competition for sports betting providers and to limit the variety of ‘outs’ for players. Again, this sounds like the type of arbitrary nonsense that a politician throws into what is otherwise a decent set of sports betting regulations. An even better option would be to allow online books to serve customers in Iowa directly without a ‘partner casino’ and subject to the same set of regulations, taxes and fees.

OVERALL, SPORTS BETTING IN IOWA LOOKS GOOD

Overall, Iowa deserves credit for putting together sports betting regulations that benefit the actual bettors and not bureaucrats. They’re treating sports betting like they should–something that their citizens will enjoy, something that will enhance revenues and otherwise has the potential for significant economic upside. Much of the specifics in the regulations look to be inspired by Nevada and until further notice the ‘Silver State’ does gaming in general and sports betting in particular better than anyone else in the United States. I’d like to see them open up access to third party companies outside of the state’s gaming industry incumbents which would not only benefit Iowa bettors but increase revenues. We’re in the process of finalizing our first state by state ranking of sports betting jurisdictions and I’ll be very surprised if Iowa doesn’t make the Top 5.

Over the next day or two we’ll try to track down as much information as we can find on the casinos that will be offering in-person betting as well as the details of their mobile operations. More specifically, we’ll pull together a list of what sports betting ‘providers’ they’ll be working with. PointsBet and William Hill will definitely be in the state.

About the Author: Jim Murphy

For more than 25 years, Jim Murphy has written extensively on gambling theory and practice. Jim Murphy has been quoted in media from the Wall Street Journal to REASON Magazine. Murphy worked as a radio and podcasting host broadcasting to an international audience that depended on his expertise and advice.