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The race is on for sportsbooks in Iowa to be ready for an Aug. 15 launch date.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) approved emergency rules for sports betting and gave Iowa sports betting licenses to 18 casinos in the state this week.
IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko told Legal Sports Report that he expects most casinos to be ready to take wagers on the first day of legal sports betting in Iowa.
“I think the majority of casinos in Iowa will have their brick-and-mortar operations ready to roll on Aug. 15,” Ohorilko said. “It may not be expansive sports betting. For some, it may be a situation where they have kiosks and a few tellers, but it looks like many of them are planning on having something ready on that first day.”
With the college football and NFL seasons fast approaching, the IRGC is providing casinos operational leeway in the rules.
Next week, the staff is meeting with every casino individually that received a license to go over the controls they have in place with regard to Iowa sports betting. Casinos are expected to have controls that provide protective measures such as verifying individuals are of legal age and reporting abnormal wagering activity.
Knowing that many sportsbooks already have such controls in place in other states, the commission was careful not to be so specific in rulemaking that it delays operators while unnecessary changes are made.
Casinos can bring in what works in other states, which will make it easier to be ready to take wagers in a matter of weeks, according to Ohorilko.
“If you look at the rules closely, there are specifics in terms of what should be considered by the operators but the commission did not specifically dictate how those controls should be written. That was critical because many of the licensees in Iowa do business in other states. As states are starting to authorize sports betting one-by-one, if there is some consistency or flexibility in compliance to regulations, it allows for an environment where compliance can be met in an efficient manner.”
Fifteen of the 18 casinos are expected to offer mobile wagering in the near-term. Now that the casinos are approved for IA sports betting, licenses are needed for their online partners.
Ohorilko noted that the commission received and is reviewing controls from online partners and that the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) already started background checks on a number of applicants.
Between now and Aug. 15, IRGC staff will be meeting with the DCI to discuss the investigations it completes. If those partners are deemed suitable, they will be eligible for a conditional mobile sports wagering license.
Ohorilko doesn’t expect all online operators to get approval by the launch date.
“A lot of partners are not companies we’re familiar with in Iowa,” Ohorilko said. “I could see some coming together really quickly if the company is licensed in multiple jurisdictions. If a company has never been licensed in the US and is slow to provide background information, it’s reasonable to assume that those companies may not get a license right away.”
Sports wagering won’t be the only game in town during the coming football season. The rules approved by the commission also authorize Iowa daily fantasy sports.
Ohorilko indicated that three companies have applied for DFS licenses – DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo! Sports. Commission staff will be meeting with them over the next couple of weeks to approve licenses.
“There currently hasn’t been any interest by any of the casinos to offer daily fantasy contests,” Ohorilko said. “It’s still early, but as we sit here today that hasn’t been anything proposed or that we’re seeing.”
Ohorilko added that it could be possible for the DFS sites to begin operations on Aug. 15. They’ll have plenty of time to be ready before the NFL season. The Iowa law prohibits fantasy games on collegiate players until May 1, 2020.
Much of the work in preparation for the launch of sports betting in Iowa will be behind the scenes. Once controls are approved on an individual basis, casinos will receive letters from the IRGC authorizing them to begin sports betting on Aug. 15.
When their licenses are approved, online operators and DFS sites also will get individual letters.
The next IRGC meeting is scheduled for Aug. 22, allowing for any issues to be addressed prior to the kickoff of the college football season on Aug. 24.