Sports betting looking promising for Iowa


Like so many other states, sport betting wasn’t allowed in Iowa until recently. Only Nevada had the privilege, thanks to an old law that banned sports betting outside of the state. Then the Supreme Court ruled that states should have the right to decide whether they wanted to legalize sports betting or not. Iowa rushed to legalize sports betting, and now it’s been a year since citizens were able to bet on sports events without fear of the law coming down on them.

How does it work?

To place a bet, an Iowan must be 21 or over, and they must place the bet within the state of Iowa itself. They can play in a licensed casino — operators must pay a $45,000 licensing fee — or they can play at an online casino. If they want to play online, they must first visit the casino itself and prove they’re of legal age so that they can create their account.

Players can only use cash, debit or check to gamble, and there are no limits on how much the player can bet. Operators, however, must provide the players with tools to help them control their own spending.

Iowans can bet on the NFL, college football, horse racing and some fantasy sports, although there are still restrictions on certain types of betting when it comes to college games. In fact, when sports betting became legal, Iowa was in a special hurry to get everything in place and ready to roll for the next NFL and college football season.

Has it been good for the economy?

There’s no denying that the local economy has benefitted from the change in legislation. The Des Moines Register online reports that in the first full month of sports betting being up and running, casinos harvested almost $40 million in wagers. In the first two weeks, Iowans laid down $8.5 million in wagers.

According to reports based on figures from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, casinos contributed more than $1.1 billion to the local economy in 2019. Some have attributed part of these figures to the fact that the requirement to register with a casino before being able to bet on sports brought in new customers for the casinos.

Sports betting outside of Iowa

The original ruling by the Supreme Court took place in May 2018, and it was a landmark decision. Since then, 17 states have legalized sports betting, one of which was Pennsylvania, who moved quickly and was able to take its first sports bets in mid-November 2018. Pennsylvania had already displayed an interest in sports betting, and Governor Tom Wolfe had signed a bill in 2017 that made a broader push for betting, including poker. When the Supreme Court made its ruling in 2018, the bill became effective.

Of course, the state that fought for the ruling, New Jersey, was lighting fast to get sports betting legislation in place. By mid-June, a sportsbook operator had already started to take bets. Other states that have legalized sports betting include Rhode Island, Delaware, Oregon, Indiana, Mississippi and the Big Apple itself, New York.

Whether sports betting in Iowa has been good for the state or not is something only time may tell. There’s no denying that the legalization of it has brought in serious money for the local economy. The state collects 6.75% in tax revenue on the casino’s net receipts and, within the first full month of legalized sports betting in Iowa, netted $334,553 in taxes.

However, some commentators fear that it might encourage people to gamble more than they intend, since anyone who wants to bet on sports must visit the operator’s establishment to create an account first. They may decide to play other casino games while they’re at the premises.

How does the future look for gambling in Iowa and outside of it?

The figures from the early days of sports betting in Iowa show that citizens in the state have an appetite for it. In fact, in the first month, betters even out-betted Indiana, which has twice as many people, and also Mississippi, Delaware, and West Virginia. Mobile technology has been a big factor and has made it much easier for players to place their bets.

Meanwhile, five states, including Washington, have approved legislation for sports betting and are getting things in place, and a further 23 states are moving towards legislation on sports betting. Only in Idaho and Wisconsin, and Utah, has there been no real activity on sports betting. Whether they’ll adopt it is anyone’s guess.

The bottom line, however, is that sports betting is going to be huge. Experts have estimated that it could be a $7 to $8 billion business by 2025. Some have gone higher and predicted it could generate as much as $15 billion by then, but others have pointed out that it will be a tough market, with everyone wanting to get a slice of the sports betting pie. In a worst-case scenario, in which only 22 states got on board with sports betting, they feel it could be worth “just” $2.5 billion.

But sports betting looks like it’s here to stay. Operators who provide it have been successful, and the state in which they operate has also benefitted. As long as players take care while playing, everyone will win.