116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — 'Have device, will gamble' has become the mantra of many Iowans now able to access sports betting websites from their smartphones, computers and other electronic gateways.
Since Iowa dropped a requirement that sports bettors first register in-person at a state-licensed casino, gamblers have jumped into the action at record clips, with January's all-time wagering handle of $149.5 million.
While February saw a slight drop off at $143.6 million bet on professional and college sports events, the state set a per-day record given the month had only 28 days — with $125.2 million coming from online instead of in-house, according to monthly numbers from the state Racing & Gaming Commission.
Last month's data included about $16.2 million wagered in the state on the Super Bowl, an Iowa record for a single sports event since wagering became legal here in August 2019.
'Iowa remains perhaps the most compelling case study yet on the effects of in-person registration requirements,' said Jessica Welman, an analyst for PlayIA.com, a website devoted to gambling options in Iowa.
'February is a short month with only one NFL game to bet on, the Super Bowl, so the relatively flat month-over-month results can be misleading on the surface,' Welman noted.
'But another strong showing still places Iowa in a class of states that are either larger or have far more mature gaming markets,' she said. 'And that would not be possible under the old requirements' of first going to a casino.
Initially, gamblers in Iowa were required to physically visit one of Iowa's 19 state-licensed casinos holding a separate sportsbook license to set up an online account. However, that requirement went away Jan. 1 and since then more sportsbooks have established business agreements with Iowa-based casinos and have ramped up marketing efforts.
'It's certainly early in Iowa's sport wagering timeline, but the state's sports betting market is beginning to show some signs of reaching a cruising point in terms of activity, meaning handle,' said Bill Ordine, gambling analyst at the Gambling.com Group. 'We keep seeing in state after state that the more convenient you can make it for customers to participate — in this case that has meant online registration — the more likely it is that customers will try sports wagering.'
So far this fiscal year, which began last July 1, Iowans have wagered $712.6 million on sporting events — with $546.1 million of that occurring electronically and $166.5 million at in-person locations, according to the commission. Since sports betting was legalized, wagering has topped the $1.1 billion mark.
While last month's total was down 3.9 percent, per-day wagering set a record of $5.1 million — surpassing the previous high daily average of $4.8 million for the 31 days in January.
The commission reported state taxes collected on sports gaming totaled $520,444 in February, bringing the eight-month fiscal 2021 year-to-date total to over $3.66 million in state taxes.
According to PlayIA.com, bookmakers in Iowa benefited from 'robust' interest in men's college basketball — particularly No. 5 Iowa and Drake, which sits just outside the Top 25 — with conference tournaments and the NCAA 'March Madness' men's basketball extravaganza yet this month.
'When local teams enjoy strong seasons, as both Iowa and Drake are, interest in betting on their games goes up. We see that in every regulated sports betting market in the U.S.,' said Dustin Gouker, analyst for PlayIA.com. 'With March Madness on the horizon, more growth almost certainly lies ahead. And sportsbooks should get an even bigger boost if Iowa or Drake can manage a prolonged run in the NCAA Tournament.'
Currently, there are 11 sportsbooks licensed to conduct business in Iowa and another 13 companies in the pipeline that have applied for a state license or have 'entered into agreements with other casinos' and are not yet licensed, said Brian Ohorilko, administrator of the state Racing and Gaming Commission.
According to separate commission data issued Friday, Iowa's 19 state-regulated casinos took in nearly $114.5 million overall in adjusted gross receipts in February, bringing the total to more than $948.13 million for the first eight months of the current fiscal year. That overall wagering generated more than $186.3 million in revenue for the state.
Last month's gross adjusted revenue was off about 11 percent from February 2020, which was a leap-year month with an extra day, said Ohorilko, and Iowa's frigid weather kept weekend patrons away.
'It was a very tough month,' he said. 'That long, cold spell was not good for business.'
Currently, revenue at the 19 casinos is down about 3.75 percent when compared with the eight months before the pandemic hit a year ago. But Ohorilko said operators expect to finish the current fiscal year June 30 ahead of fiscal 2020.
'We should see our revenue surpass what we did last year, but it looks like it will probably be off from our 2019 numbers, which was a pretty good year,' he noted.
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