Is Online Sports Betting Legal in Iowa?
Right now betting on sports is not legal in Iowa but with a new sports gambling bill ready for lawmakers to look at when they first assemble in 2019, the situation may improve soon.
The Supreme Court ruling to allow each state in the US to legalize sports betting was a game-changer, no doubt. But how exactly has it affected Iowa?
Fans of sports and gambling in the Hawkeye State had to be thrilled with the decision but many are still wondering how long it will take before they can actually bet on sports legally in Iowa.
This guide to Iowa sports betting laws will answer all of those questions by shedding light on:
- Iowa’s new sports betting bill that is up for review by state lawmakers at the beginning of 2019.
- A history of sports betting and gambling in the state to give the current situation some context.
- What we expect in terms of when and in what form legal sports betting will be available in IA.
We’ll also take a closer look at whether you can bet on daily fantasy sports (DFS) in Iowa and the sports we think most of the state’s betting action will focus on when legalization does happen.
If you’re wondering what’s happening in other parts of the country, check out our guides to legal US sports betting for each state.
The Current Online Sports Betting Situation in Iowa
Despite a history of being very accepting towards gambling in Iowa, there have been some bumps on the way to legalizing sports gambling.
Iowa actually started working on its sports betting bill and filed it early in 2018 called HF 2448. It had support from the House, the Senate and the Iowa casino groups but there was push back from anti-gambling groups, churches, and major professional sports leagues.
At the end of the day it was the federal ban on sports betting known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that blogged Iowa’s progress towards legalization.
When the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May of 2018, it opened the door for Iowa to revisit HF 2448. The state didn’t start the discussion during 2018 but there are many voices making it clear that it will be on the agenda early in 2019.
What’s in the Iowa Sports Betting Bill?
HF 2448 is one of the broader sports betting bills that’s being developed in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision. Here are the main points:
- Sports betting would be offered at the state’s 19 land-based casinos.
- The bill allows for online betting and mobile apps.
- A limited sports betting product could be available at non-casino retail locations.
- The bill allows for betting on professional and college sports.
- Casinos pay $25,000 for a sports betting license and a $15,000 annual renewal fee.
- A tax of up to 22% will be levied by the state on sports betting revenue.
In addition to casinos expressing interest, the Iowa State Lottery is also trying to find a way to get in on the action.
Optimism that Sports Betting Will Be Legalized
There are many different groups in Iowa who are on board with legal sports betting. In June, an article from the Iowa Gazette quoted Republican Jake Highfill, who said that lawmakers, retailers, the state lottery and casinos are pushing for the state government to introduce laws on sports betting.
Legislation on sports betting will likely come up in January, and it sounds like House-File 2448 will be the starting point.
Wes Ehrecke is President of the Iowa Gaming Association and one of the biggest proponents of moving forward with legalization.
"In Iowa, if we are proactive in getting this passed in the upcoming session and other states do not, that could be a real advantage," Ehrecke said.
"For patrons of Iowa, we believe many people are going to enjoy watching and betting on sports in regulated, legal environment," he added.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer is one of the most powerful Republicans in the legislature and she mentioned legal sports betting in a discussion of the state’s priorities in early 2019.
“That’s just a really interesting topic," said Upmeyer . "I’m looking forward to see what Iowans want done with that or not done with that maybe.”
US Supreme Court Decision
May of 2018 was a massive victory for sports bettors across America. If you’re new to the sports betting scene, here’s the rundown.
The Supreme Court in America finally reversed a 1992 law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The law banned sports gambling to “protect the integrity of the game.”
When SCOTUS repealed the law it didn’t automatically make sports gambling legal in the US. It gave each state the authority to pass new laws legalizing it. That’s exactly where Iowa currently finds itself.
The History of Gambling and Sports Betting in Iowa
Iowa has a strong history of gambling with 19 casinos, a state lottery and legal betting on horse racing.
The situation around online wagering hasn’t always been the cheeriest, with online poker and other ventures hitting roadblocks in the past, but with specific language that allows online betting in the new sports betting bill, the future definitely looks brighter.
Let’s take a look at a few of the main plot points from Iowa’s gambling story:
1980s - Pari-Mutuel Wagering on Horse Racing
Call this the kickstart to sports betting in the State of Iowa. In 1983, the state legalized pari-mutuel wagering on both greyhound and horse racing in the state.
The success of that persuaded state lawmakers to also allow betting on races from other states via Simulcast, in 1989.
1985 - Iowa Lottery
The lottery in Iowa was started later compared to some other parts of the US but in 1985 Iowa introduced a state lottery. After seeing some success by bringing in revenue through the lottery, the state later introduced inter-state lottery games including Powerball.
1991 - Legislation Sparks Licensing for Casinos
There is a trend of successful gambling endeavors in the state since the early 1980s, and that continued into the 1990s.
In 1991, Iowa passed laws that allowed individual counties to decide on the future of casinos in the state. Since then, 19 casinos have been licensed.
2012 - Multiple Failures for Online Gambling Bills
Unfortunately for fans of sports betting in Iowa, the transition into the world of online gambling and online sports betting hasn’t been quite as smooth as the state’s introduction of casino gambling.
In 2012 and 2013, bills to legalize online gambling were both turned down. There were complications throughout the process of trying to get those bills passed, including negotiations with the Indian tribes in the area.
Which Online Sports Betting Sites Are Legal in Iowa?
The current situation for online sports betting in Iowa can be a bit confusing.
On the one hand, there are no online sports betting websites that are licensed and regulated in Iowa.
On the other hand, there are no laws that prevent residents in Iowa from gambling, as previously mentioned.
Although residents are able to bet on offshore sportsbooks, we don’t recommend it. Legal sports betting is coming to Iowa in the next year or two and it’s going to include online betting. We suggest being patient and waiting for 100% safe and secure Iowa online sports betting sites.
To get an idea of what sites might be available, we can look to other US states that have already legalized it.
Keep an eye out for brands like these to partner with existing Iowa casinos to offer top-quality online betting options:
Sports Interaction originally started in the United States but has since focused on the Canadian sports betting market. They’ve developed a solid reputation over the years and are finding inroads back into the US in states that have made betting on sports legal.
This platform might have an even better chance of coming to Iowa if they are to legalize sports betting. The Vegas-based operation has been expanding across the country including states that have legalized sports betting, like New Jersey.
Although this may sound like a fancy jewelry store (sorry, that’s Michael Hill), William Hill is somewhat of a newcomer to the US, despite a long history of offering casino and sports gambling online in other parts of the world.
What Sports Can You Bet on Online in Iowa?
Right now there are no sports to bet on in Iowa but when legalization happens, the options will be endless.
Iowans will be able to bet on major North American professional and college sports as well as other games and leagues from all over the world.
When online betting options arrive we encourage Iowa gamblers to shop around on different platforms depending on which sport they want to bet on. Different sports betting websites offer different deals depending on which sport you prefer.
While residents in Iowa can bet on any sport they choose, it’s pretty clear that college football, college basketball, and betting on NFL football reign supreme in the Hawkeye State.
Here are some of the most popular teams that local betting action may focus on:
- Iowa Hawkeyes (NCAA football)
- Iowa State Cyclones (NCAA football)
- Iowa Hawkeyes men’s basketball (NCAA basketball)
- Iowa State cyclones men’s basketball (NCAA basketball)
- Minnesota Vikings (NFL)
- Green Bay Packers (NFL)
- Kansas City Chiefs (NFL)
Horse Race Betting Options in Iowa
Although it’s just a branch off the online sports betting tree, there are viable options already out there for Iowa residents who want to bet on horse racing.
For those that don’t want to bet online, there is one licensed horse racing track and one licensed dog racing track in the Iowa. For those that want to bet online instead, here are the three websites that citizens in Iowa can safely use.
- TVG - One of the most well-known online horse betting resources in the United States. Gamblers can bet on races from over 150 tracks from all over the world. TVG offers benefits such as $20 free for your first bet and matches on your first deposit.
- Bet America is one of the slickest and easiest to use apps out there for those that want to bet on horse racing.
- Twin Spires isn’t as prolific as the two competitors above, but it has built up a good reputation for being a quality horse race betting platform. They offer a number of weekly and monthly deals, along with a $100 sign-up bonus.
Is Betting on Fantasy Sports Legal in Iowa?
Unfortunately for residents in Iowa, betting on fantasy sports is not legal. There is hope that things will change, however, based on recent bills that have attempted to pass through the legislature.
Iowa State gaming laws prevent Iowans from betting actual money on fantasy sports, even though it’s estimated that about 1 in 10 adult residents in the state already bet on fantasy sports. It’s clear to see that Iowa is missing out on a potentially lucrative industry.
Currently, popular daily fantasy sports betting websites including DraftKings, FanDuel, Fantasy Draft and Yahoo! are prohibited in the State of Iowa.
Some lawmakers in the state do seem to see things this way, which is why a bill was created in 2017 to bring legal fantasy sports betting to Iowa.
History of Legal Fantasy Sports Betting in Iowa
Legislators in the state started trying to legalize fantasy sports in 2013. A bill was introduced but nothing was formalized before legislature adjourned in April 2014. Does that sound familiar?
Once again in 2015, a bill was introduced that would start the process to legalize fantasy sports, but once again the bill didn’t get enough support. The Senate tried to push another bill through in 2016 that consequently failed as well.
When they tried again in 2017 things finally started to show signs of progress. The bill had better details and more favourable components compared to previous bills, including implementing a 7.5% tax on fantasy sports betting.
The bill, H 613, is still on the table, although there is some fear that it will be overshadowed by sports betting in the legislature in 2019.
Is There No Deposit Sports Betting in Iowa?
Right now there are no legal Iowa online sportsbooks so there are no deposits or promotions to mention.
However, when legalization does happen we expect the offers to be really similar to we’re already seeing in other states like New Jersey.
Keep an eye out for special free bets and no-deposit bonuses that let you bet and win real money without having to deposit a cent.
Check back on this page for expert reviews of the best online sports betting sites in Iowa and compare all the different bonuses to find the very best.
What Is the Future of Online Sports Betting in Iowa?
The future of sports betting in Iowa looks bright. With a sports betting bill already on the table, the state clearly missed an opportunity in 2018 and with heavy support from the state lottery, casinos and influential lawmakers, the same mistake won’t be made in 2019.
That applies to both fantasy sports and sports betting. Bills have been tabled for both, and 2019 will be an important year for residents in Iowa who want to see sports betting legalized. Fantasy sports legalization might take a backseat to sports betting, but the future is bright for the prospects of both in Iowa.
We expect serious movement on this matter in the first months of 2019 so make sure to check back on this page for major developments as they happen.
Will Online Sports Betting Ever Be Legal in Iowa?
The odds of sports betting being legalized in Iowa by 2020 are very high.
The current bill is up for discussion in the Iowa legislature in 2019 and lawmakers have expressed a very positive attitude towards its chances.
Rep. Jake Highfill told media that his peers in state government are “all-in” on the new bill so there's even an outside chance that the state could legalize sports betting in 2019, although that seems like more of an outside chance at this point.
Highfill estimates that the state could take in “tens of millions of dollars per year” from the new industry but according to the state lottery’s research, that number is more like $10 million annually.
The biggest resistance towards legal sports betting has come from church and problem-gambling groups as well as pro sports leagues like Major League Baseball and the NFL.
The current bill doesn’t include an integrity fee to be paid to sports leagues that are being bet on.
While many lawmakers and politicians in the state are eager to legalize online sports betting, there are those that are content with taking their time on the matter as well.
Iowa has been looking to its neighbour, Illinois, to see how the sports legalization process plays out there, while Illinois hasn’t legalized sports betting just yet, they are a step further ahead than Iowa at the moment.
Legal Sports Betting on the Horizon for Iowa
For some, it may be disappointing that Iowa couldn’t get their legislation on sports betting figured out in 2018 but there are lots of reasons to be optimistic about what 2019 holds.
Despite some hesitance from politicians and lukewarm protest from anti-gambling groups and pro sports, it seems like Iowa will be able to offer regulated sports betting in the near future.
With the bill set to be discussed in their legislature in 2019, it is fair to estimate that a bill could be passed later in 2019, if not in 2020.
Iowa will likely keep an eye on their neighbours in Illinois, as that state has already introduced legislation and sit further ahead of Iowa on the sports betting legalization curve.
Check back on this page for more developments as they happen. We expect 2019 to be a massive year for sports and gambling fans in Iowa.