What You Need to Know About Iowa’s Online Sportsbooks

October 20, 2019 Matt Speakman

Folks in Iowa can now bet on professional and college-level sporting events online from state-licensed sportsbooks. The law took effect on August 15, 2019, meaning online sports betting in Iowa is still in its earliest stages, with no hard revenue numbers yet available. Still, licensees are to pay a 6.75 percent tax on revenue, so at least some of the money will go to taxpayers. But beyond funding social programs, here’s how Iowa’s legal online sports betting works for those hoping to bet on sports.

In-Person Registration Limited to Iowa, Not Iowans

Collegiate and professional online sports betting comes to Iowa © Phil Roeder / Flickr

Anyone 21 and older in Iowa with a valid ID can register to place bets online. That means someone could be visiting from out of state—or recently relocated into the state—and have access to the sportsbooks. But there are two catches.

The first catch is that the betting apps are required to track the bettor’s location when they have the online sportsbook open. That means it is illegal to play at state-licensed sportsbooks from outside of the state, and they will block those who try. While some players might be able to get around this by using a VPN, they will ban (and potentially blacklist) those who they catch doing so.

The second catch: prospective bettors need to go to a licensed operator and sign up in person before they’re granted online access.

Prior to Iowa legalizing the sportsbook, Iowans had access to a wide range of legitimate offshore online casinos. And they still do. None of these alternatives require the individual to go to a physical location to register. In fact, to many online gamblers, it all but defeats the purpose. So, it’s reasonable to assume that some Iowans located a good drive away from the closest license holder will continue playing at unlicensed online casinos.

However, oversight from Iowa is inherently stricter than oversight by offshore online casino havens. No matter how well-reviewed and trustworthy the overseas competitor may be, the peace of mind that comes with playing at a legal online casino might make in-person registration worth the trip.

Further, local legalization opens the doors to online gambling for those who wouldn’t have considered depositing money at an unlicensed sportsbook. Therefore, the combination of new bettors and superior oversight should compensate for the few online gamblers who stick to the offshore options.

How Iowa Online Sports Betting is Expected to Develop

At launch, six operators were licensed and accepting bettors. As the NCAA and NFL football seasons approached, more operators will pop up and accept new members. As revenue disclosures become available in the coming months and years, brands will close while others open. Like any industry, availability will depend on demand.

However, the in-person requirement for registration will end in 2021. If an operator is free to offer a sportsbook without the up-front cost of a brick-and-mortar location for their customers, it could open the doors to even more brands. On top of that, Iowans unwilling to drive a distance to register in person today could register from home in 2021.

Iowa isn’t known for its tourism like other parts of the US. But given the number of extremely popular college sports teams, which boast alumni from across the country and beyond, the sports betting revenue from visiting gamblers may be more significant than expected. Consider the ability to bet on a game while attending. All one would need to do is register at a licensed sportsbook.

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