Iowa Sports Betting Market Ready To Expand As In-Person Registration Requirement Ends

Posted on December 30, 2020

Fully online sports betting registration will be available as of Friday in Iowa, ending the pointless requirement of bettors creating accounts at casinos.

Iowa launched sports betting in August 2019 with a law that required sports bettors to create their accounts on site instead of through a mobile app like most other states offer.

That requirement limited the Iowa online sports betting market in two ways. First, it shut out anyone not willing to travel to create their account, which meant lower revenue. But most importantly it left sportsbook operators on the sidelines waiting for the requirement to lapse.

That’s about to change, though, with multiple new sportsbooks looking to enter the state, according to Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Administrator Brian Ohorilko.

“We are processing license applications or are aware of applications that appear to be imminent for up to an additional ten new online sports companies,” Ohorilko said. “It is more likely than not that our market will look very different by summer once this new wave of applications subsides.”

Most operators prepared for Iowa sports betting change

A majority of Iowa’s sportsbook operators are ready to take remote registrations on Jan. 1 after submitting and getting approval for their systems, Ohroilko said. Many of them treated their know your customer controls as if registration was happening remotely from the beginning anyway, he added.

There are eight mobile sportsbooks active in Iowa right now:

There could be one hiccup when it comes to William Hill, though. William Hill, which is being acquired by Caesars, is partnered with three operators in the state: Affinity Gaming, Prairie Meadows and, of course, Caesars.

Sportsbooks have to pay 0.75% of revenue to the non-profit licensee that’s partnered with a casino. It’s unclear if William Hill has worked out that issue with its three partners at this time.

Iowa hasn’t shown full market potential

Without in-person registration, the US online sports betting industry will finally get a chance to see Iowa’s full potential. The state’s handle has been rising since major sports returned in August but it’s still one of six states with mobile betting to not top the $100 million handle mark in a month.

Iowa’s best month by handle came in November with $87.2 million bet. Its best month in terms of sports betting revenue was October with $9.1 million.

It’s not that Iowa’s a huge state – it only has 3.2 million residents, which ranks it 32nd in terms of US jurisdictions. Outside of Illinois, though, none of Iowa’s five other border states offer sports betting.

That means the state’s legal market is the closest for potential sports bettors throughout parts of Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Now those bettors only have to cross the border of Iowa to place a bet instead of making their way to a casino first.

Where does in-person registration remain?

There are now just two states that require sports bettors to register at a casino: Illinois and Nevada.

The requirement for Illinois is also temporary. Remote registration will be permanently allowed whenever the first mobile-only operator launches in the state. That can happen 18 months from market launch in March 2020, or just in time for the 2021 NFL season.

Of course, Illinois online sports betting has had remote registration for most of its short life. Gov. JB Pritzker suspended the requirement first in June and again in August, with the August suspension still live.

It looked like a change could be coming in Nevada after sportsbooks had to hold drive-through registrations and deposits with casinos shut down because of the coronavirus. A public workshop to discuss remote registration was scheduled for November but eventually canceled.

Photo by Jeffrey McWhorter / The Associated Press
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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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