Sports betting in Iowa? What a concept

We will soon be able to legally suffer bad beats

(Mike Segar/Reuters)
(Mike Segar/Reuters)

So this is really happening. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill on May 13. As we near football season, you will be able to legally wager on professional and major-college sports in Iowa. Perhaps sometime further down the road, you’ll be able to bet on games at home while puffing on a cigarette made from herb you legally purchased. That herb might even be marijuana.

Which, come to think of it, might be the best way to watch the Kansas City Royals.

To those who have been betting on games illegally for the last few days or decades, you soon can enjoy the same activity without the (minimal) fear of prosecution. Plus, you can donate to the state’s tax coffers in the bargain.

Or, you can resist betting and keep your money. If you want to be all sensible about things, though, what are we doing here? Ah, that’s an existential question for a time other than a holiday weekend.

This essay isn’t devoted to those of you who can go to a teller’s window in a Las Vegas sportsbook and not stammer because you don’t know the terminology or process. Rather, it’s more for those who have spent their vacation money at Disney properties rather than Vegas’ palaces of debauchery.

The poor fools. At least you have a chance of winning something in a sportsbook.

It’s a given that most people understand point spreads, but incredibly, there are those who have lived their lives without using brain cells to learn such matters.

So it’s like this: If Iowa is a four-point favorite over Minnesota, you bet on the Hawkeyes, and they win the game by more than four points, you win.

If the Hawkeyes lose the game or win by three points or less, you lose. If they win by four it’s called a push, not a tie. But it is a tie and you get the amount of your wager returned.


You have to bet $11 to win $10 on bets like those, by the way. Does that seem fair? Well, that’s where the house makes its money.

By the way, it’s actually a casino, not a house. It’s like they have a different word for everything.

There are other sports wagers. One is called a moneyline bet. Lou Dobbs once hosted a show on CNN called “Moneyline.” Yes, Lou Dobbs was on CNN. Which now seems as unlikely as me winning on “Jeopardy” 23 straight times.

The moneyline bet is when you bet on a team to win. Let’s say a team is a 7.5-point underdog. That means it’s probably about +275 on the moneyline. Thus, you could bet $10 to win $27.50, but your underdog has to win the game for you to cash your ticket.

Iowa was a slight underdog when it beat Texas Tech in the 2001 Alamo Bowl. I distinctly remember an Iowa grad who bet the Hawkeyes on the moneyline. He was shouting “Moneyline! Lou Dobbs!” throughout the rest of the night in a San Antonio hotel bar after the Hawkeyes won the game and gave him his own victory.

Lou Dobbs. What a concept.

Then there are over/under wagers. The casinos put up numbers for the total points in a game and you bet if the final score will be higher or lower than that number.

The over/under on the Wisconsin-Iowa game last September was 44 points. The Badgers scored on a 33-yard run with 22 seconds left and kicked the extra point for a 28-17 win. Those who bet under 44 had what is commonly known in gambling lingo as a “bad beat.”

That one was a brutal bad beat. Epic, in fact.


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You’ll hear much more sports-betting chatter now that Iowa joined several other states and brought it into the great wide open. However, listen only to a seer named Hlastradamus, who took Brooks Koepka at 10-to-1 to win the PGA Championship before the tournament began.

Oh, something else you’ll quickly learn about sports betting: You’ll hear people talk about their wins a lot more than their losses.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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