Football helps Iowa sports betting go long

Over $47 million in bets placed in six weeks, state says

College basketball is broadcast on a large video screen in the show lounge in March at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in
College basketball is broadcast on a large video screen in the show lounge in March at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in March in Riverside. Legalized sports betting started in Iowa in mid-August, and only one of the state’s 19 licensed casinos — the Casino Queen in Marquette — applied for and received sports betting licenses. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Game on.

Iowa gamblers are getting the hang of legalized sports betting since it started in mid-August.

Data from the state Racing and Gaming Commission indicates Iowans placed $47.1 million in bets during the first six weeks since the state authorized it. Of that total, $21.6 million in bets were made through casinos and $25.46 million were made online.

“Overall, I think they seem to be pleased,” said Wes Ehrecke of the Iowa Gaming Association, an umbrella group for the 19 state-licensed casinos operating in Iowa.

He noted the sports-wagering industry in Iowa has yet to mature, since October will be the first full month of operation for the 18 casinos that applied for and received state licenses. The Casino Queen in Marquette did not seek a sports betting license.

“I think it’s bringing in a little different demographics that enjoy watching sports and betting on sports,” he added.

Brian Ohorilko, administrator for the state Racing and Gaming Commission, said sports wagering continues to evolve since the Iowa law that legalized sports betting on professional and college athletics went into effect Aug. 15.

In September, wagering spiked to about $38.53 million. Ohorilko said the activity picked up steam when the college and pro football seasons got into full swing. The interest in sports wagering also has seemed to have a spillover effect in casinos, where patrons have lined up on weekends to place bets and engage in table games or other casino offerings.


For the first three months of fiscal 2020, Ohorilko said, overall gambling numbers at state-licensed casinos are up about 7 percent compared with the July-to-September quarter one year ago. He noted most years see fluctuations of only a percent or two up or down. Last fiscal year, for instance, Iowa’s state-licensed casinos took in nearly $1.457 billion, which was down about a half of a percent.

“It still is early,” the commission administrator said. “ ... It’ll be interesting to see if that trend continues.”

Since Aug. 15, sports betting produced $480,467 of state tax revenue based upon a tax rate of 6.75 percent.

Initially, Iowans have had to travel to a licensed casino to establish an online account and meet the qualifications to participate. Some casinos offer sports betting only on site, but Erhecke said he expected more will adopt mobile apps for in-state betting that will provide an additional opportunity for wagering.

Iowa’s law legalizes betting not only on pro and college athletics, but also on daily fantasy sports such as at DraftKings and FanDuel.

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