America’s map of regulated statewide sports betting markets just grew by one, after eight sportsbooks in Iowa officially opened to the public on August 15. Beginning on Thursday, the Iowa legal sports betting launch means state bettors can now visit the following eight casino venues to register for sports betting accounts and place their first wagers:
Iowa Legal Sports Betting Market on Opening Day
|Casino||Sportsbook Operator||Online / Mobile?|
|Ameristar Council Bluffs||Kambi||No|
|Isle Bettendorf||William Hill U.S.||Yes|
|Isle Waterloo||William Hill U.S.||Yes|
|Lakeside||William Hill U.S.||Yes|
|Prairie Meadows||William Hill U.S.||Yes|
That brings the list of states to launch legal sports betting industries after last year’s Supreme Court decision to repeal a federal ban to 10. Iowa now joins Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Arkansas, and New York.
Up until May of 2018, Nevada was the only state authorized to offer single-game sports wagering under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. But a 6-3 decision by the highest court in the land repealed the PASPA as unconstitutional, paving the way for Iowa to expand its already vibrant gambling industry.
Despite states like Montana and Indiana passing their sports betting bills earlier, Iowa becomes the first jurisdiction to legalize and launch its industry in 2019 after regulators embraced a “fast-track” approach.
Regulators Prepared by Studying, Mimicking Other Legal States
Flush with funds generated by dozens of commercial and tribal casinos, along with horseracing tracks, legislators in the Hawkeye State took just six days to draft, debate, and pass Senate File 617 back in late April.
Within three weeks Governor Kim Reynolds had signed the Iowa legal sports betting bill into law, and by July 30, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) approved licensing applications submitted by 18 casinos. At that time, the IRGC targeted August 15 as the preferred launch date for both brick and mortar and online / mobile sportsbooks.
The ambitiously speedy rollout was designed to get Iowa bettors in line before the start of football season, as the popular sport historically dominates a sportsbook’s handle.
And as IRGC administrator Brian Ohorilko told Legal Sports Report, with the college football crazed Iowa fanbase circling August 31 on their collective calendar for NCAA regular season kickoff, regulators knew the state couldn’t afford to miss out on a single bet:
“It was important for the industry to be able to offer sports betting by NFL season, but college football is king here in Iowa and that season is even a little earlier. If entities are ready to go, they’ll have the opportunity to work out any bugs before the NFL season starts.”
There was a turnaround of less than four months from passage of the Iowa legal sports betting bill to implementation. In order to facilitate the process, Ohorilko told Legal Sports Report that the IRGC contacted other states to study successful regulatory models:
“We got familiar with all of the states that drafted regulations and made contact with a number of those jurisdictions just so we had those relationships started.”
William Hill First Online Operator to Launch Opening Day
Of the eight land-based casinos to offer sports betting on opening day, only the four William Hill U.S. powered bet shops have an online / mobile component up and running.
The company will soon have competition from fellow iGaming operators like Kambi, PointsBet, and Bet.Works. For now, though, chief executive officer Joe Asher is pleased with its early mover “monopoly” status.
In a public statement, Asher confirmed that William Hill U.S. coveted Iowa and its affinity for legal gambling since well before the Supreme Court decision last year:
“Knowing the passion around sports in the area coupled with the industry and the regulatory system, we’ve been pretty bullish on Iowa for a number of years. That’s why we started the licensing process with our race book a couple of years ago in Iowa. It was all with the idea that one day sports betting was going to become legal and when it was we were going to be here.”