Is Sports Betting Legal in Iowa?

Check off Iowa as the ninth state to introduce full-scale legalized sports gambling and open sports books ever since the Supreme Court voted in May 2018 to allow states to pass their own laws either allowing or prohibiting betting on professional and college sports.

Iowa's legislation, which was approved in May 2019, allows residents 21 years and older to wager on sporting events at any of the state's 19 casinos and online if they visit a casino once in person to prove they are of legal age.

However, there are some restrictions today. While Iowans can bet on the result of college games, the law does not allow in-game proposition bets on college sports — like how many points a certain player will score.

"I am hearing interest probably like nothing else since the opening of riverboat gambling in Iowa back in 1991," Catfish Bend Casino CEO Gary Hoyer said of sports betting in the state.

"Wherever I go, whether it's the grocery store or out for dinner, it's the topic that everyone stops and wants to talk about."

While the legislation is in place, some of the rules and regulations still need to be ironed out. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, which will regulate sports betting in the state, hopes to have those guidelines finalized before college sports and NFL games start in the fall.

Read more on sports betting across the US states here.

Betting Laws in Iowa

More than three million people live in Iowa — a Midwestern state known for its landscape of rolling plains and cornfields. Des Moines is the capital and the state's largest city with more than 200,000 residents.

Gambling laws in the Hawkeye State — whether it's horse racing at Prairie Meadows or the slots at Horseshoe Council Bluffs casino — are governed at the state level by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

All legalized gambling in Iowa is limited to the following areas:

  • Commercial casino gambling
  • Tribal casino gambling
  • Riverboat casino gambling
  • Poker
  • Pari-mutuel wagering
  • Lottery
  • Daily fantasy betting
  • Social gambling
  • Charitable gambling

All forms of gambling in the state of Iowa have the same age requirement — 21 years or older. If you are under the age of 21, you cannot legally gamble in any of the casinos, poker rooms or gambling halls in the state.

Casinos

Most would be surprised to discover that gambling revenues in the state of Iowa total more than $1.4 billion annually.

This state is widely known for producing corn and soybeans, not jackpot winners. But Iowa is home to a riverboat casino, three tribal casinos and more than a dozen commercial casinos, offering residents countless ways to place their bets. That's quite a few venues since the first casino opened in the state on the Mississippi River in 1991.

One of the most popular casinos in the state is the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City. The resort's hotel was one of only five in Iowa to achieve a four-diamond rating in 2018. The gambling venue features more than 800 slot machines and almost 30 table games.

The largest casino in Iowa is located just northeast of the state capital in Altoona. Prairie Meadows Casino, Racetrack & Hotel is open 24/7 and offers smoking and non-smoking gaming sections. The 85,000-square-foot casino has more than 1,700 slot machines, table games and poker tournaments.

Horse racing

Iowa has been receptive to legalized gambling since the state first legalized pari-mutuel betting in 1983. The legalization of slot gaming at racetracks 11 years later helped Prairie Meadows recover after filing for bankruptcy in 1991. The state's lone racetrack opened its casino in 1995.

In 2011, Prairie Meadows held three separate meets for thoroughbred, quarter horse and standardbred racing. The pacers and trotters were dropped from the schedule four years later and now only compete at non-betting fairs across the state. The thoroughbreds and quarter horses race from April to October.

Admission is free to live racing, which also includes exhibition events (from Corgis and Wiener dogs to camels, zebras and ostriches).

Lottery

Iowa Lottery sales began in August 1985 with a kickoff celebration at the Iowa State Fair. Over time, the lottery has raised almost $2 billion for state programs.

The lottery sells tickets in four general categories — instant-scratch, InstaPlay, pull-tab and online games — and is also part of the multi-state lottery association which includes games like Powerball and Mega Millions.

Iowa's Sports Betting Laws

The state legalized sports betting in May 2019. Since that time, three casinos have received conditional approval to build sports books — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City, Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort near Larchwood and Lakeside Casino near Osceola.

Betting windows aren't open yet, but the casinos and state regulators are hoping to be ready for the upcoming NFL season.

In addition to the land-based venues, the state has legalized online and mobile wagering as well. But these platforms are at least a year away from betting action. However, Iowa residents have enjoyed playing the money line, point spread and totals bet on top-ranked offshore sites like Bovada for years.

See below the top sportsbooks where you can wager online and choose the best one for you:

Iowa's Favorite Sports Teams

Iowa does not have any professional sports teams of its own, but the Big Ten's Iowa Hawkeyes have a huge following in the state, especially with their NCAA football and basketball programs.

Still, diehard fans in Iowa are surrounded by pro teams with Minnesota to the north — like the NFL's Vikings, Milwaukee and Chicago to the east — like the NHL's Blackhawks — and Kansas City and St. Louis to the south — like MLB's Cardinals.

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