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Iowa Online Gambling: an Expert Guide

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Gambling in Iowa

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Our Guide to Online Gambling in Iowa

Iowa gambling laws have fostered a substantial land-based casino industry. Iowa has 20 brick-and-mortar casinos, which is a lot for the state ranked 31st in population size. Iowa has three racinos, a state lottery which embraces Mega Millions and Powerball, and a large charitable gambling sector. Starting in 2017, Iowa has simulcasting and off-track betting — a sign the current legislature is ready to pass more gaming laws.

2020's Best Online Gambling Sites for Iowa Players

We’ve listed our favorite casinos, sportsbooks and poker sites accepting players from Iowa below. Pick a site and start playing!

Iowa Online Gambling FAQs

Iowa Online Gambling Laws

Iowa gambling laws do not distinguish between a player and an operator. The law does distinguish between the amount of wagering taking place, which obviously means operators tend to be more liable. High rollers are punished more in Iowa than most states, though.

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Iowa passed legal and licensed spors betting on June 30, 2019. Sports wagering began throughout Iowa on August 15. Players have to travel to a land-based casino to prove age and identity, which allows them to bet on-site or on a mobile sports betting app for Android or iPhone.

Section 725.1(1)

A person shall not do any of the following:

  1. Participate in a game for any sum of money or other property of any value.
  2. Make any bet.
  3. For a fee, directly or indirectly, give or accept anything of value to be wagered or to be transmitted or delivered for a wager to be placed within or without the state of Iowa.

Almost any form of unregulated gambling is considered illegal, similar to Illinois and Indiana. In fact, Iowa’s definition of gambling is somewhat more expansive. Not only is risking a sum of money or other property gambling, but also giving or accepting anything of value (to make a wager) for a fee is considered gambling. This stipulation covers numbers running, but also would cover fees charged by poker clubs.

Presumably, Section 725.1 could be applied to online gambling sites. If a poker site, online sportsbook, or online casino charged fees of any kind and then offered gambling, it would fall under provisions of the law. In Iowa, players face charges of illegal gambling in “four degrees”. The more you wager, the higher your sentence. Gambling over $5000 is illegal gambling in the 1st degree. Wagering between $501 and $5000 is gambling in the 2nd degree. Betting between $101 and $500 is gambling in the 3rd degree, while risking $100 or less is considered gambling in the 4th degree.

IS GAMBLING LEGAL IN THE STATE OF IOWA?

Yes, land-based forms of gambling are legal in Iowa, including casinos, racetracks, charitable gambling, and lottery ticket sales. Despite a few idiosyncratic laws involving illegal gambling, Iowa lawmakers stay firmly in the mainstream of American statutes when it comes to gambling.

Online gambling is a different matter. Despite attempts in 2012, 2013, and 2018, online poker is unlikely to be legalized anytime soon. An attempt to combine a sports betting and online gambling bill in 2019 has some chance of being passed. Iowa newspapers have endorsed such a move. It remains unlikely, because the revenue stream it would create does not appear great enough to offset the downsides: the costs of implementation, land-based casino revenue cannibalization, and perceived social costs.

IOWA ONLINE POKER LAWS

In 2015, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) approved a study which showed that online gambling would generate $13 million a year in revenue for the state government. The IRGC report failed to win support, so no bill was introduced until 2018. An attempt to pass online gambling failed in 2018, but might be on the table in 2019 or 2020, due to the inclusion of a sports betting bill that would allow Iowa’s casinos to operate sportsbooks.

On January 15, 2019, The Gazette published an op-ed article by Adam Sullivan which made the case for Iowa to legalize online poker. Sullivan pointed out it is unlikely to happen, because of the large number of land-based casino operators in the state. It’s counterintuitive, but land-based casinos often oppose online gambling, because they think customers will stay home to play online poker and spend less than they would in their casinos.

In the case of Iowa, the land-based casino operators largely supported the sports betting and online gambling bill — but it failed anyway. Adam Sullivan wrote, “There was an unsuccessful bill in the Iowa Legislature last year (2018) to authorize sports betting in-person and online, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal statute that strictly limited states’ sports betting programs. Gaming lobbyists supported that bill, since it would have put the new system under control of existing licensees.”

IS SOCIAL GAMING ALLOWED IN IOWA?

Yes. As noted above, charitable organizations can offer social gaming for fundraising purposes. Poker nights are acceptable if the organizer is licensed, while amusement devices are acceptable if those devices are registered. Iowa has an accepting stance towards most forms of gambling and social gaming is no different.

A social gambling license is required to host social gambling events. Small stakes card games and “parlor games” are allowed. The list of accepted social gambling games includes darts, billiards, poker, gin rummy, pinochle, cribbage, euchre, pepper (bid euchre), pitch, and hearts. If the gaming venue has a beer permit or a liquor license, it also can conduct sports betting pools.

Those with social gambling licenses cannot offer certain forms of charitable gambling. The list includes bingo, raffles, bookmaking (single-game sports bets), roll of the day, poker tournaments, poker runs, or casino-style games other than poker.

Readers might be confused about the allowance of small stakes poker above, but the banning of poker tournaments and poker runs. The distinction is between small, single-table poker games and freezeout tournaments with big prize pools and large fields of entrants. “Poker runs” require people to drive to 5 to 7 venues (usually on a motorcycle) to pick up a playing card for either draw poker or seven-card stud. Poker events which require multiple venues are banned for social gambling license holders.

Online social casinos like Double Down, Zynga, and Slotomania are available in Indiana. Big Fish Games accepts Indiana residents. MyVegas from MGM Resorts and Play4Fun from Mohegan Sun offer free-to-play casino gaming. Players even can win comps and other rewards at MGM Resorts or Mohegan Sun land-based casinos through freeplay gaming online.

DOES IOWA HAVE LAND-BASED CASINOS?

Iowa has more than its share of land-based casinos. It has 20 brick-and-mortar casinos, including tribal and commercial gaming operations. Indiana also has one horse track casino and two dog track casinos, for a total of 23 land-based casino operations in the state.

DOES IOWA HAVE ANY LEGAL BETTING TRACKS / SHOPS?

Yes. Prairie Meadows Racetrack Casino in Altoona, Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, and Q Casino & Hotel in Dubuque are the three racinos in the state.

Prairie Meadows began as a horse track, while Horseshoe Casino and Q Casino began as greyhound parks. Casino gambling now is the main driver of revenue at each racino these days. Here are the three addresses of all three venues.

DOES IOWA ALLOW OFF-TRACK BETTING?

Yes. Starting in 2017, Indiana’s legislature allowed simulcasting and off-track betting at facilities like Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Clinton and the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel at Tama.

Races from famous US venues like Santa Anita Park, Aqueduct, Oak Lawn, and Keeneland are available in simulcasts with racebook betting. The racetrack casinos have off-track betting, as well.

DOES IOWA ALLOW CHARITABLE GAMBLING?

Yes. The Social and Charitable Gambling Unit administers charitable gambling in Iowa according to provisions of Iowa Code Chapter 99B.

Licensed educational, public, charitable, civic, religious, and patriotic can conduct charitable gambling for fundraising purposes. Those organizations can offer games of skill or games of chance, including bingo nights, raffles, social gambling (poker nights), and amusement devices.

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