Iowa Gambling Laws

Iowa Gambling LawsGambling in Iowa offers the state’s residents many varied sources of legal access to betting.

What stands out in Iowa is the democratic way the counties vote by referendum when looking to institute new forms of gambling. Perhaps the democratic attitude towards gambling has a lot to do with the state’s rich riverboat casino history. Gambling is a rich and historic source of cultural currency in Iowa and locals mostly support the industry.

Gambling Type Legal Land-Based Legal Online
Sports Betting No No
Casinos Yes No
Fantasy Sports (DFS) N/A No
eSports No No
Poker Yes No
Horse-Racing Yes Yes
Lottery Yes No
Charitable-Gambling Yes No

Iowa Gambling Tax Rate

Iowa has a 5% state tax on gambling winnings, and Federal taxes may apply on larger wins.

Legal gambling age In Iowa

The minimum age for ALL legal gambling in Iowa is 21.

Iowa Sports Betting Laws

Betting on sports potentially changed forever in May 2018, when the Federal Government lifted prohibition on sports gambling. The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed the legal sports betting decision making back to the state to decides for themselves, and until now, Mississippi, Delaware and West Virginia have joined New Jersey and Nevada as states that have adopted legalized sports betting.

Sports Betting in Iowa

As recently as December 2017, the Iowa Gaming Association (IGA) begun working on sports betting legislation should the federal prohibition of sports betting be lifted.

As we know now, the Supreme Court did end up striking down the restrictive laws, and as a result, Iowa lawmakers are now free to legislate.

House Study Bill 592 looking to regulate legalized sports betting, was introduced to the Iowa State Legislature in January 2018. If and when it is passed, HS 592 will potentially allow wagering on professional and college sports at racetracks, local casinos and via selected and licensed online sports betting sites.

Online Sports Betting in Iowa

Online Sports Betting is currently prohibited in Iowa, and unfortunately, Iowa has made no move to expand the online betting options available to its visitors and residents. Fortunately, land-based gambling is widespread in Iowa, however, it is possibly down to that fact there is no political will to introduce legislation to the State House to legalize online casinos or online sports betting.

Past legislative attempts in Iowa have all focused on getting internet poker legalized rather than sports betting or concentrating on online casino laws. Gambling experts across the U.S. consider it may be some time before Iowa may change its stance on online sports betting with the land-based gambling sector being so strong in Iowa.

Meanwhile, online betting on horse and greyhound racing is the legal outlet for the online sports bettor to wager on in Iowa.

Casinos in Iowa

There are world class casino facilities exist in Iowa and many are located on Native American Tribal Lands. Iowa’s residents and visitors also have the option to play casino games on the state’s historic riverboat casinos. Casino games are also available for legal play by Iowa residents at the state’s racetracks.

Iowa’s Land-based & Riverboat Casinos

The Tribal casinos, the riverboat casinos, and with the added value of the ‘racinos’, the available options provide Iowa with more than 20 casinos across the state, more than 21 000 slots and gaming machines, and more than 450 table games in total. Wagers at Iowa’s casinos range from a minimum of $0.01 to a very generous maximum bet of $10 000. The colorful history of Iowa’s riverboat casino adds to an extra special flavor to the casino facilities on offer and Iowans for the most part, are very proud of their casino gambling history.

Online Casinos in Iowa

Despite lawmakers in Iowa having said in the past that they’re interested in seeing how New Jersey’s foray into poker goes and that they may consider drafting online casino legalization legislation, it has now been since 2013 and little has progressed in terms of Iowa’s online gambling laws.

Until that happens, online Casinos are illegal in the Hawkeye State.

Potential online players in the state of Iowa should acknowledge the online gambling laws that that online casino gambling is illegal in the state and refrain from playing both off-shore and U.S. based online casinos.

Please section above on ‘Sports Betting Online’ and in particular, the below section ‘Online Poker Laws in Iowa’ on the legislative legalization attempts made by the Iowa State Legislature. Should those attempts eventually bear fruit, legal online casinos may potentially follow that legal precedent.

Horse Racing Betting in Iowa

Iowa’s residents and visitors have many legal horse racing betting options for on-course and off-track betting locations and online horse racing betting sites. Horse and greyhound racing betting in the state is administered by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

Track Side: Iowa is home to a single state-administered greyhound racing track and there are an additional 3 Horse Racing tracks in the State of Iowa. It’s worthwhile to note that all tracks in Iowa also offer casino slot machines, video poker and live poker games.

Off-Track Betting (OTB): The State of Iowa has an extensive network of more than 20 OTB locations throughout the Hawkeye State.

Online Betting on Horse Racing in Iowa: Iowa’s online racebooks for the most part have relatively small initial deposit requirements and all of them provide the convenience of betting anywhere/anytime on a mobile device or PC. Iowa residents over the age of 21 all have full legal access to online horse betting sites that offer betting on races throughout the U.S and across-the world.
If you can’t manage to travel to an OTB outlet to bet on big events like the Triple Crown or the Kentucky Derby, you can still place wagers on the big races with an online account and all 100% legally.

Iowa’s Daily Fantasy Sports Laws

U.S. Federal Law exempts Fantasy Sports (DFS) as a form of gambling, as the DFS competitions have been determined by Federal lawmakers to be skill-based competitions. While many state governments tend to agree with the Federal ruling on DFS, Iowa does not.

At the moment, Iowa’s state gaming laws prohibit real money online DFS betting.  The first DFS legalization bill in Iowa (proposed in 2013) sought to allow Iowa to join the long list of states that allow online fantasy betting, however, it did not pass.

An additional two legalization bills were introduced in Iowa to legalize DFS in 2015 eventually failed in 2016. Senate Study Bill 3181, followed up in 2016, however, that one also failed to pass into legislation.

In 2017, seemingly determined to get DFS legalized, lawmakers in Iowa tried again to legalize and regulate DFS with a bill seeking to legalize DFS, institute a 7.5% tax on DFS revenues and prohibit those under 21 from playing.  While the bill didn’t make it through the 2017 session, the same bill (House File 613) was reintroduced in 2018 and quickly made it through a House subcommittee.

The repeated legalization attempts all goes to show that Iowa’s legislators are determined to have DFS legal in the state and it appears to be only a matter of time until they succeed. Until they are successful, all major DFS companies are unable to legally accept players from the Hawkeye State to participate in their real money competitions.

DFS – An explanation

 DFS is different, very different. Betting on teams to win and/or lose plays no part in DFS at all. In DFS competitions, you must become a player performance-and-statistics expert in order to be successful.

Becoming a virtual team manager in DFS, you are required to balance your player selections within a salary cap. Staying within budget is essential to your success as a DFS player.

Using the example of an NBA DFS league for example; you’ll need to assemble a team that amasses the most points, rebounds, assists, 3-pointers etc. These stats are transferred into ‘points’ for your team.

DFS players can choose a new fantasy NBA team each day/week: investing a fixed amount of virtual money on centers, point guards, power forwards etc.

Every player has their own price tag customized by the fantasy sports operators, that are determined by player performance throughout their individual careers and the current season.

Consistently performing bargain players who don’t command high ‘buy-in’ prices are the favorites of the best DFS contestants and feature in the highest scoring teams. ‘Paying’ more for an NBA superstar like Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, can potentially leave an NBA DFS contestant ‘short-changed’ with less to spend on other quality players for their fantasy team.

Most frequently, outstanding and champion DFS players are all excellent ‘budget balancers’ generating the best value for money out of their chosen players. (The hit movie ‘Moneyball’ will come to mind for its fans).

DFS contest winners may possibly receive $1 million or more for each competition during the NBA regular season; (NHL, MLB, NFL and college football in states where amateur sports are considered legal for DFS competitions are usually offered).

Poker Laws in Iowa

Other than social ‘home’ poker games being illegal in Iowa (as they are played without a license – see section 99B.9 of the Iowa Code), Live Poker can be enjoyed legally in the state’s Tribal casinos, riverboat casinos, horse and greyhound racing tracks.

Online Poker Laws in Iowa

Iowa’s online players are still unable to play Poker online at the current time, however, online poker is under continual debate by the state’s legislators.

The hopes for online poker in Iowa remain alive despite many bills having failed to pass the Iowa State Senate in recent years; (Senate file 2275 in 2012 and Senate Study Bill 1068 in 2013). Iowa’s legislators aren’t opposed to online poker. It’s actually more a matter of appeasing the other interested parties in Iowa’s gambling industry (i.e. tribal and riverboat casinos and the ‘racinos’) and agreeing on all the fine print.

eSports Betting in Iowa

With legal sports betting soon to be a reality in Iowa, eSports betting will offer the state’s residents never before seen betting markets in a brand of betting that is untouched the troubled and unlegalized past, and in many U.S. states, it is eSports that is driving the change.

The ‘eSports’ phenomenon explained

If you’re not aware, video game play at the very highest level has in a few short years, become a full-fledged professional sport.; ‘eSports’. eSports are most often played in a team-format in tournaments worldwide, rather than being an individual sport.

Electronic games are like different sports types, much in the same way that football, baseball, basketball and hockey are different types of sports. CS:GO and Overwatch, for example, are the NFL and NBA of the eSports world.

As eSports wagering grows exponentially worldwide, an increasing number of international sportsbooks offering a betting markets across the major eSports tournaments.

Keep your eyes peeled for eSports betting to be available soon at your favorite Iowa sportsbook.

Benefits of Legal Gambling to Iowa

  • In 2017, gambling generated more than $1 billion for Iowa’s economy.
  • Gambling establishments purchased almost $240 million of services-and-products from Iowa-based business in 2017,
  • This year, gambling businesses are estimated to provide over $400 million of tax revenue to Iowa.
  • In 2017, almost 9000 people were employed directly in the gambling industry with many more employed in associated service industries.
  • More than $50 million in grants and scholarships was paid by the gambling industry to charities and students in Iowa.

History of Gambling in Iowa

1983; Horse & Greyhound Racing legalized in Iowa.

1985; Iowa State Lottery created.

1991; 2 Riverboat Casinos open, with 2 more following in 1994.

1992; First Tribal Casinos open in Iowa.

1994; Riverboat Casinos allowed to dock.

2013-17; Ongoing legislative push to legalize DFS contests in Iowa.

2013-17; Ongoing legislative push to legalize online poker in Iowa.



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