How Can I Bet Sports in Iowa?

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:

Whether an experienced gambler, newbie, resident or someone visiting the state, betting sports in Iowa is now available to anyone 21 years or older. breaks down everything you need to know before placing a bet while in Iowa.

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For those looking to wager sports via their mobile devices, this can still be done by accessing international websites.  While not licensed in the state, benefits include zero paper trails, anonymity, a larger variety of betting options and likely better lines. Yes, you can bet Iowa college team player props (more on this shortly).  Additionally, these sites allow those 18 years or older.  Local bookmakers even extend credit.

The offshore books, as they are commonly referred to, have the added advantage of being around for more over two decades in some cases (BetOnline started in 1999, Bookmaker started in 1986 as a call center sportsbook). They tend to offer more generous signup bonuses.

One of the benefits of in-state licensed sportsbooks is the ability to settle disputes through the regulatory process (though we would note disputes involving reputable international sports betting operators tend to be rare). 

Another greater advantage is the availability of apps, something the out-of-state operators are prohibited from offering to those in Iowa.  Unfortunately, iPhone will no longer permit sportsbooks and casinos to operate on its platform without properly conforming to its code.  Without getting too technical, the current coding requirements are not entirely compatible with today's gaming sites. As a result, operators have been forced to either delay their mobile launch or restrict only to Androids.  Still others are offering browser-based sports betting similar to what the offshore books and local bookies provide their customers.

Mobile sports betting from Iowa's in-state operators is anticipated over the next few weeks, but registration for these sites will need to occur in-person at one of the state's casinos for at least the next two years.  Residents may find this to be an inconvenience while those visiting the state who wish to place a bet will find in-person registration close to impossible. 

William Hill CEO Joe Asher said in Des Moines that the company still in the process of getting its app for mobile sports betting into the app store. He expected it to be available by the weekend of August 17. William Hill expects to have a work-around for the Apple version available within two weeks.

For the moment, sports betting will only be available at 18 of 19 Iowa casinos.  All 18 expect to have sports betting up and running by September. A few like Rhythm City in Davenport and Ameristar in Council Bluffs, just over the bridge from Omaha, already started taking bets.

The Des Moines Resister noted that Prairie Meadows also plans to promote advanced sign-up periods for gamblers who will want to have the app pre-downloaded on their devices and ready for use on the first day of allowable wagering. The app must first pass logistical and security clearances before being made available in online stores and before the casino will promote customers' ability to sign up.

"We will be in a good position to be going right out of the gate," Brad Rhines, the casino's senior vice president and chief strategic officer said. "We're aiming to make things as streamlined as possible."

Mobile betting from Iowa-based sportsbooks will only be available within the state's borders and cannot be used in other states, even those that have legalized the activity such as neighboring Illinois. 

A list of licensed Iowa casinos for sports wagering:

    Ameristar Casino, Council Bluffs
    Catfish Bend, Burlington
    Diamond Jo, Dubuque
    Diamond Jo Worth, Northwood
    Grand Falls Casino, Larchwood
    Hard Rock Sioux City, Sioux City
    Harrah's Council Bluffs, Council Bluffs
    Horeshoe Council Bluffs, Council Bluffs
    Isle, Bettendorf
    Isle, Waterloo
    Lakeside Hotel & Casino, Osceola
    Prairie Meadows, Altoona
    Q Casino, Dubuque
    Rhythm City Casino, Davenport
    Riverside Casino, Riverside
    Wild Rose, Clinton
    Wild Rose, Emmetsburg
    Wild Rose, Jefferson

Like the offshore sportsbooks, Iowa-based betting companies look to offer their customers an advanced-deposit wagering process.  Such a service would allow users to feed their accounts for remote betting without having to continually visit the casino.

You won't be able to bet everything from in-state operators.  Categories of events that have a blanket ban are high school, minor league and amateur sports.  This is where the out-of-state operators benefit as a number of those sites were offering odds on the popular Little Leaague World Series.

One can also expect limits to be imposed, especially if you're winning big.

"(Sports books only) have so many resources, so they can only offer so many bets. So sometimes the books, they have to pick and choose what they offer," Racing and Gaming Commission director of gaming Brian Ohorilko said. "Sometimes, unless it’s a major college game, sometimes the college games get left off. Or, they’re not left off, but there are betting limits to not expose too much risk."

Rhimes said at Prairie Meadows, William Hill's slate of available wagers will be as complete as is possible.

"You will see their full plate and offering" of wagers and legal prop bets, he said. "If somebody wants action on something that doesn't exist ... they'll look into it and could well place the bet."

Here's a list of sports you can immediately expect to wager on. The IRGC's copy of this list is in table form here.

  • NCAA football — Money line (winners), point spreads (by how much will someone win), over/unders (total points in a game), futures (season-long bets), team proposition bets (in-game, statistics-based wagers), player proposition bets (not availabe on games featuring Iowa in-state schools)
  • NCAA basketball — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props, player props (not availabe on games featuring Iowa in-state schools)
  • NCAA baseball — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props, player props (not availabe on games featuring Iowa in-state schools)
  • NFL — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props, player props
  • NBA — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props, player props
  • MLB — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props, player props
  • NHL — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props, player props
  • MLS — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props, player props
  • WNBA — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props, player props
  • UFC — Money line, futures
  • Boxing — Money line, futures
  • Tennis— Money line, futures
  • PGA, LPGA and European Tours— Money line, futures, head-to-head (individual contests between two players pre-determined by the sportsbook), player props
  • NASCAR— Money line, futures, head-to-head, player props
  • Formula One and IndyCar Money line, futures, head-to-head
  • International soccer (FIFA competitions, UEFA competitions, English Premier League, French Ligue 1/2, La Liga, Italian Serie A/B, Bundesliga — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props, player props (Bundesliga not included)
  • "Minor league" football (Canadian Football League, Arena Football League, XFL) — Money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team props

It remains to be seen if in-state operators will offer extended markets on UFC and boxing matches such as Method of Victory and Round wagering. 

In-game wagering on college sports will likely be limited as a means of protecting the operator, even on games that do not feature the likes of the Iowa Hawkeyes or Iowa State Cyclones.

The Register's Stephen Gruber-Miller and Ian Richardson do pose the question as to whether legal sports betting changes anything with an individual's March Madness pools.

Iowa maintains a somewhat archaic but useful provision in its code on "social gambling." The particulars dig deep into the weeds, but know that workplace pools for the NCAA men's basketball tournament remain allowable under state law, with the following provisions:

    No participant wins or loses more than a total of $200 in one or more games at any time during any period of 24 consecutive hours.
    No person including the one organizing the bracket shall receive a take from the monies collected.
    All participants in the gambling are individuals, and no participant may participate as the agent of another person.
    A social relationship must exist between all participants involved.
    The game is conducted in a fair and honest manner.
    There is no minimum age to participate.

From a technical standpoint, be sure that no participant in this pool lives outside of Iowa, for the same federal restrictions that limit a mobile app's geographical footprint also govern these monetary transfers.

- Gilbert Horowitz,

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