Are There Any Restrictions Betting Sports in Iowa?

Written by:
Dan Shapiro
Published on:

There are a few critical restrictions when it comes to betting on sports in Iowa that stand to allow a more competitive landscape for offshore sportsbooks, many of which have been in business for more than 20 years now.

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About Iowa Sports Betting

Lawmakers in the state in 2019 passed a bill allowing sports betting at casinos strategically located throughout Iowa.  It is not immediately known if all state casinos will offer a sportsbook.  But there will also be mobile wagering on sports anywhere within the state's borders to compliment the retail brick and mortar offerings. 

The first sportsbook is expected to open August 15 just ahead of the start of college football and the NFL.  Iowa's dive into the sports betting waters comes a year after the US Supreme Court ruled to abolish decades of prohibition, thus paving the way for all states to legally offer the activity.  But individual states, in an effort to abide by the previous mandates, imposed their own laws banning gambling on sports.  As a result, most states must now amend their own laws.  Some are less inclined to do so while still others are discovering obstacles standing in the way, especially those states with a strong tribal influence.  Many tribes feel threatened by mobile betting in particular.  The tribes typically contribute heavily to political parties. Their influence cannot be underestimated.  Just ask Iowa's neighbor to the north, Minnesota. 

With the onset of regulated sports betting in the US, a clearer picture is starting to emerge.  States with strong tribal control of gambling will likely have a tougher time enacting legislation.  This is true of the country's biggest state, California.  Even if states in this category manage to get legislation passed, the odds of mobile sports wagering occuring outside the tribal run casinos remain relatively low out of fear these properties will lose critical foot traffic. 

There are also a handful of what might be classified as "Bible Belt" states.  Some, like Mississippi, embrace gambling.  Others, like South Carolina and Georgia, disdain it.  But the one common denominator for each of them will be a lack of willingness to permit one from gambling within the confines of their own home.  We're already seeing this in the early stages with Mississippi, Arkansas and North Carolina.

Tennessee, which does not have any casinos, is among the most religious of US states, and just passed a bill permitting online sports wagering only, appears to be an outlier.

What Legalized Sports Betting in Iowa Means

Iowa takes to the national stage in 2020 as they host the first Democratic primaries.  Sports betting in the state is not limited to just residents.  Anyone within Iowa's borders may place a bet, though they must register at one of the casino properties for the foreseeable future.   And this brings us to the Iowa sports betting restrictions.

Registration Process Restrictions

Iowa's 19 casinos are relatively convenient to get to, but not if you just happen to be visiting the state. 

Who goes to Iowa anyway?  It's not exactly on my vacation bucket list.


Iowa is fast becoming the Midwest Silicon Valley and has even gained the nickname "Silicon Prairie" (part of a group of midwest states that share that nick).

As a result, the state will host countless numbers of individuals with the financial means to place wagers on sports. 

And did we mention all the major media outlets that will be descending upon Iowa during 2020?

The number of folks visiting Iowa in the coming year will swell as a result.  We fully anticipate these individuals will be bombarded with radio, television and billboard advertisements for sports gambling.

If they don't bet on sports now, they soon will be.

Most of these financially well off individuals will have little time to place bets, let alone visit a state casino to do so.  But any off time they do have allows one to wager with a reliable offshore sportsbook.  They can register before arriving in Iowa or after landing.  They can be paid within hours before they leave the state.  Who wants the hassle of having to trek to one of the casinos?  Who has the time?

No Betting Props on the Iowa State Colleges

Probably more bets will be placed on either the Hawkeyes or Cyclones in college football than any single team in the NFL from the state of Iowa.  They just won't be made from any of the state licensed sportsbooks, at least not props and probably no live in-play betting on games featuring these teams.  A provision in the law prohibits prop betting on games that feature state college teams, and this includes the beloved Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones. Both teams are expected to be competitive in 2019.  Offshore sportsbooks accessible from Iowa will take ALL bets on the Hawkeyes and Cyclones.

September 14 is a key date for sports betting in the state.  This is when the Hawkeyes take on the Cyclones in a highly anticipated heated rivalry.

Iowa State is now a formidable opponent.  By the time this one rolls around, we could see the Hawkeyes as a mere single-digit favorite.  As of July 2019, the Hawkeyes line would be -10.

You Must be At Least 21 to Open a Sports Betting Account

And finally, state law requires gamblers to be at least 21.  This is yet another area where the internationally licensed sportsbook sites can compete.  All welcome those 18 and up.

- Dan Shapiro,

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