Iowa Poised for Sports Betting Boom as In-Person Registration Is No Longer Required


Sports betting in Iowa is anticipated to receive a major boost as an in-person registration requirement expires today to make it possible for sports fans to open wagering accounts online.

Legal sports betting first went live in the state in August 2019. Under Iowaโ€™s athletic gambling law, bettors were required to open an account at a physical casino in order to be able to place bets online and via mobile apps. That requirement is no longer valid as from today, January 1.

During the first full fiscal year of legal sports betting, Iowaโ€™s sportsbooks handled $368 million in wagers and generated revenue of around $25 million. The state has already surpassed these totals in the first five months of the current fiscal year, with sportsbooks netting more than $27 million in revenue. The bulk of that, about $13.8 million, came from online bets as Iowans were urged to avoid physical gambling venues.

According to industry experts, online wagers could account to as much as 90% of the stateโ€™s market as the in-person registration requirement was lifted which is expected to result in increased participation.

Eight sports betting companies are licensed to operate mobile betting apps in Iowa, but the stateโ€™s Racing and Gaming Commission expects that number to go up to 20 and that several interested operators are in the licensing pipeline.

An Uptick in Sports Betting Agreements

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Administrator, Brian Ohorilko, said in a recent interview that the current uptick in sports betting license applications is very similar to the demand the agency saw before the 2019 NFL season when the practice had just been legalized in the state.

He went on that there has also been an increase in new agreements between the stateโ€™s land-based casinos and online sports betting companies, with casinos entering into partnerships for their second or even third branded wagering websites.

Under state law, each brick-and-mortar casino can offer up to two individually branded betting sites. The Racing and Gaming Commission is authorized to permit a third branded website, if it chooses.

Iowaโ€™s in-person registration requirement was met with a steam train of opposition when it was introduced a year and a half ago, with critics arguing that it would muffle participation and hurt revenues.

Lawmakers backing the stateโ€™s approach argued said that it was the right way to introduce the new gambling opportunity and that temporarily requiring bettors to open accounts at a physical facility was a good security precaution.

A similar requirement for in-person registration was introduced by Illinois when the state legalized sports betting in the summer of 2019. The requirement was lifted temporarily by Gov. J. B. Pritzker in June as the stateโ€™s gambling venues had to stay closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and after their reopening, patrons were urged to avoid crowding in these.

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