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.
At the same time, Iowa has an expansive definition of gambling. Authorities also considered most form of unregulated gaming as illegal. With four degrees of illegality, the state is ready to enforce even minor offenses. With a hardline policy on online poker, daily fantasy sports, and other skill games, Iowa is state where players must think long and hard about unregulated gambling.
Laws That Pertain to Iowa Gambling
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.
A person shall not do any of the following:
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.
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
Iowa has not legalized online poker. In 2012, the Iowa Senate passed Senate File 2275 by a margin of 29-20, but the bill failed in the General Assembly. In 2013, the Senate Study Bill 1068 was introduced. Eventually, SSB 1068’s sponsors realized the Republican-controlled legislature would vote down the bill, so they let it die in committee.
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.”
It is not out of the realm of possibility that Iowa could pass online poker in the next few years, but it has a history of failure in the legislature.
Sports betting is, in many ways, tied to online poker in Iowa. Since last year’s bill included sports betting and online gambling, it is natural to predict that a 2019 sports betting bill could include online poker and casino betting. Since the state’s land-based casinos supported last year’s bill after 5 years when no bill was introduced, it is likely that support stemmed from a hope for adding sportsbooks.
In that case, then Iowa lawmakers eventually might separate sports betting from online gambling. Sportsbooks in casinos might pass on its own accord, though such a bill might not be forthcoming until 2020 or later, when attempts at an omnibus gambling bill fail (if they fail). Iowa has more activity than some of its neighbors, though.
One point against sports betting legalization is Iowa’s attitude towards daily fantasy sports. Iowa’s legislature refuses to legalize DFS gaming. Worse, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Fantasy Draft do not accept real money players from Iowa. As a good rule of thumb, when daily fantasy sports can’t pass in the legislature, sports betting is doomed.
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.
|City||Name Of Casino||Address||Phone Number||Details|
|Bettendorf||Isle Casino Hotel – Bettendorf||1777 Isle Parkway, Bettendorf, Iowa 52722-4967||(563) 359-7280||971 Gaming Machines, 19 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Burlington||Catfish Bend Casino||3001 Winegard Drive, Burlington, Iowa 52601-2061||(866) 792-9948||607 Gaming Machines, 5 Poker Tables, 20 Gaming Tables|
|Carter Lake||Prairie Flower Casino||Avenue H, Carter Lake, Iowa 51510||(402) 857-3391||N/A|
|Clinton||Wild Rose Casino & Resort – Clinton||777 Wild Rose Drive, Clinton, Iowa 52732-7700||(563) 519-9000||565 Gaming Machines, 12 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Council Bluff||Ameristar Council Bluffs||2200 River Road, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51501-7070||(712) 328-8888||1,512 Gaming Machines, 24 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Council Bluffs||Harrah’s Council Bluffs||1 Harrah’s Boulevard, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51501-5680||(712) 329-6000||563 Gaming Machines, 22 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Davenport||Rhythm City Casino Resort||7077 Elmore Avenue, Davenport, Iowa 52807-3636||(563) 328-8000||797 Gaming Machines, 8 Poker Tables, 26 Gaming Tables|
|Dubuque||Diamond Jo Casino – Dubuque||301 Bell Street, Dubuque, Iowa 52001-7004||(563) 690-4800||973 Gaming Machines, 20 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Emmetsburg||Wild Rose Casino & Resort -Emmetsburg||777 Main Street, Emmetsburg, Iowa 50536-1666||(712) 852-3400||489 Gaming Machines, 12 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Jefferson||Wild Rose Casino & Resort – Jefferson||777 Wild Rose Drive, US Highway 30 and Iowa Highway 4, Jefferson, Iowa 50129-2241||(515) 386-7777||512 Gaming Machines, 14 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Larchwood||Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort||1415 Grand Falls Boulevard, Larchwood, Iowa 51241-5000||(712) 777-7777||789 Gaming Machines, 8 Poker Tables, 27 Gaming Tables|
|Marquette||Casino Queen Marquette||100 Antimonopoly Street, Highway 18 West, Marquette, Iowa 52158-7731||(563) 873-3531||525 Gaming Machines, 8 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Northwood||Diamond Jo Casino – Northwood||777 Diamond Jo Lane, Northwood, Iowa 50459-8801||(641) 323-7777||984 Gaming Machines, 7 Poker Tables, 26 Gaming Tables|
|Onawa||Blackbird Bend Casino||17214 210th Street, Onawa, Iowa 51040-7600||(712) 423-9646||335 Gaming Machines, 1 Poker Table, 8 Gaming Tables|
|Osceola||Lakeside Hotel Casino||777 Casino Drive, Osceola, Iowa 50213-8298||(641) 342-9511||829 Gaming Machines, 13 Poker and 20 Gaming Tables|
|Riverside||Riverside Casino & Golf Resort||3184 Highway 22, Riverside, Iowa 52327-9690||(712) 226-7600||901 Gaming Machines, 29 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Sloan||WinnaVegas Casino Resort||1500 330th Street, Sloan, Iowa 51055-8056||(712) 428-9466||850 Gaming Machines, 3 Poker Tables, 10 Gaming Tables, 400 Bingo Seats, Race Book|
|Tama||Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel||1504 305th Street, Tama, Iowa 52339-9697||(641) 484-2108||1,400 Gaming Machines, 10 Poker Tables, 22 Gaming Tables, 750 Bingo Seats, Race Book|
|Waterloo||Isle Casino Hotel – Waterloo||777 Isle of Capri Boulevard, Waterloo, Iowa 50701-9265||(319) 833-4753||947 Gaming Machines, 4 Poker Tables, 26 Gaming Tables|
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.
|City||Name Of Casino||Address||Phone Number||Details|
|Altoona||Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino||1 Prairie Meadows Drive, Altoona, Iowa 50009-2100||(515) 967-1000||1,969 Gaming Machines, 10 Poker Tables, 46 Gaming Tables, Race Book|
|City||Name Of Casino||Address||Phone Number||Details|
|Council Bluffs||Horseshoe Casino – Council Bluffs||2701 23rd Avenue, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51501-6968||(877) 771-7463||1,395 Gaming Machines, 18 Poker Tables, 51 Gaming Tables, Race Book|
|Dubuque||Q Casino& Hotel||1855 Greyhound Park Road, Dubuque, Iowa 52001-2381||(563) 582-3647||830 Gaming Machines, 4 Poker Tables, 18 Gaming Tables|
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.
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.
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.