Iowa sports gambling is now legal

Iowa is becoming the 11th state to allow sports betting, and six casinos say they're ready to sign up players and begin taking bets.

Posted: Aug 15, 2019 10:35 AM
Updated: Aug 15, 2019 1:41 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Six Iowa casinos began accepting bets on sporting events Thursday, making the state the 11th in the nation and first in the Midwest to allow such wagering.

Casinos in Altoona, Bettendorf, Osceola and Waterloo offered betting on-site and through a mobile app, while casinos in Burlington and Council Bluffs offered on-site betting only until their mobile systems are set up, said Brian Ohorilko, the Iowa Racing and Gaming administrator.

Two more casinos were close to final approval and were expected to be authorized to take bets soon, Ohorilko said. Eventually most of the state's 19 state-regulated casinos are expected to offer sports betting.

Diamond Jo Casino in Northwood will have a sportsbook. However, as of Thursday, it hadn't opened. The plan is for it to be open in time for football season.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a measure in May that allowed sports betting, beginning at noon Thursday. It requires players to first travel to a casino to prove their age and identity and set up an account.

Iowa is the only Midwestern state with legalized sports betting. Indiana is set to start next month, and Illinois has approved it but could be several months away from startup because rules are still being drafted.

That means sports betting enthusiasts are likely to travel to Iowa casinos from adjacent states to sign up and boost business for border casinos including Ameristar in Council Bluffs, where General Manager Paul Czak expects players from Nebraska and Missouri.

Czak expects a significant number of Nebraska Cornhuskers fans to cross the Missouri River and place bets.

"When I looked yesterday Nebraska was 3-to-1 odds to win their half of the Big 10, 12-to-1 to win the Big 10 and 66-to-1 to win the national championship," he said. "So I would guess there will be a lot of futures bets being placed tonight and this weekend for those kinds of things."

Iowa's law requires mobile betting to be done within the borders of the state. Betting software includes precision geofencing technology that nullifies bets made outside of Iowa.

Sports betting is limited to those 21 and older, and the state will collect a 6.75% tax on net receipts. Taxes and licensing fees are estimated to bring in estimated annual revenue of $2.3 million to $4 million annually.

First-day bets could be placed on several sporting events including upcoming Major League Baseball games, National Football League preseason contests or college games.

Betting in Iowa is allowed on professional, collegiate and international sporting events. Iowa also has legalized fantasy sports contests and internet fantasy sports betting.

At Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona a ceremonial ribbon cutting marked the opening of sports betting in the state. The first bets were placed by state Sen. Jack Whitver, a Republican, who chose the Iowa State Cyclones to beat the Iowa Hawkeyes at their Sept. 14 football game in Ames.

Gambling regulators say at least two more casinos could be approved by the end of the day.

Eventually most of the state's 19 state-regulated casinos are expected to offer sports betting.

In Iowa, players must first travel to a casino to prove their age and identity and set up an account. Mobile betting is allowed only within the borders of Iowa.

Betting is allowed on professional, collegiate and international sporting events. Iowa also has legalized fantasy sports contests and internet fantasy sports betting.

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