Iowa Gambling

Welcome to your complete guide to gambling in Iowa. On this page, we will be discussing the Iowa gambling industry in great detail. We’ll be discussing legal Iowa gambling sites, what’s legal today and what may be legalized in the future as lawmakers consider the future of the industry.

Iowa is generally a gambling-friendly state even if it doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a gaming destination. Land-based casinos and racetracks operate throughout the state, horse racing betting is legal, and several forms of social and charitable gambling are permitted in certain circumstances. Iowa also has a state lottery.

The full list of legal gambling activities in Iowa includes:

  • Casinos (in-person)
  • Sports Betting (in-person and online)
  • Poker (in-person)
  • Daily fantasy sports (online DFS and in-person)
  • Horse racing betting (online and in-person)
  • Lottery (in-person)
  • Bingo and charitable gambling (in-person)
  • Games of skill (online and in-person, but legal situation is unclear for online games)

Now, let’s take a closer look at the various form of legal Iowa gambling.

Iowa Online Gambling

Legal online gambling options in Iowa consist of sports betting, daily fantasy sports and horse racing betting. The legality of skill games played for money online is unclear, which has resulted in some skill gaming sites choosing to operate in the state while others play it safe and opt to stay out.

Online casino games and poker are prohibited in Iowa. The odds of online casinos and poker sites coming to Iowa remain fairly low at this point, but they did get a boost after lawmakers agreed to legalize mobile sports betting.

At the very least, the legalization of sports betting indicates attitudes toward online gambling are slowly changing for the better. Lawmakers have toyed with the idea of legalizing online casinos and poker in past years. Those efforts have never made much headway, however, and now the focus is all on sports and daily fantasy.

Sports Betting in Iowa

Iowa legalized sports betting in May 2019 with a bill approving in-person and mobile sportsbooks. The bill (SF 617) that led to this change was introduced in April, quickly gained approval in both chambers and was signed into law by Governor Reynolds the following month.

State law allows state-licensed casinos to apply for licenses to launch retail sportsbooks and online betting for customers 21 or older and located within state lines. The Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission (IRGC) is tasked with drawing up regulations, reviewing licensing applications and overseeing the industry.

The Iowa sports betting law established a reasonable tax rate of 6.75% and allows each land-based casino to operate up to two individually branded mobile sportsbooks. Overall, we can safely say the law set the stage for a competitive environment that is good for players and the industry alike.

Sports betting at tribal casinos is not addressed by state law, but the operators of some Native American casinos said they plan to pursue sports betting as well. WinnaVegas CEO Mayan Beltran confirmed shortly after the passage of the law that they would voluntarily follow the regulations established by the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission despite having no obligation to do so.

Iowa Betting Sites

The first mobile sportsbooks have now launched in Iowa, and more are on the way. Note that you must visit each betting site’s partner casino in-person to sign up for an account. After you are registered, you may login from anywhere within Iowa to make deposits and place wagers.

William Hill Mobile

Sign up in person at any of these four locations:

  • Isle Casino Bettendorf
  • Isle Casino Waterloo
  • Lakeside Hotel Casino
  • Prairie Meadows

Elite Sportsbook

Sign up in person at any of these three locations:

  • Riverside Casino
  • Rhythm City Casino
  • Grand Falls Casino

Major gaming operators have had an eye on Iowa for quite some time now as news spread the state was becoming increasingly likely to legalize sports betting. Several notable operators such as FanDuel and William Hill even secured partnerships with local casinos ahead of time in anticipation of Iowa passing a sports betting law.

Now that sports betting is officially legal in Iowa, we expect to see many more operators enter the state. Below is a quick look at some of the state’s likely partnerships involving land-based casinos and online gaming technology providers. Note that not every entry on this list is 100% confirmed, but we will be back often with updates as new information emerges.

  • DraftKings Sportsbook: DraftKings Sportsbook is already active in other states and the company should have little trouble securing market access due to its popularity and name recognition. One likely path to Iowa involves a deal DraftKings already has in place with Caesars Entertainment, which operates Horseshoe Council Bluffs and Harrah’s Council Bluffs.
  • FanDuel Sportsbook: FanDuel confirmed it would seek a sports betting license in Iowa within days of the law being passed. FanDuel has a deal in place with Boyd Gaming, which operates Diamond Jo Dubuque and Diamond Jo Worth.
  • William Hill Sportsbook: William Hill and Prairie Meadows reached an agreement in 2019 to offer in-person and mobile sports betting in Iowa. Prairie Meadows has since constructed an 8,600 square foot sportsbook and William Hill mobile is now live as well.
  • PointsBet Sportsbook: Australia’s PointsBet first arrived on US shores in New Jersey and is now eying other markets. PointsBet and Catfish Bend Casino reached an agreement in April 2019 to offer sports betting in Iowa.

Brick and Mortar Casinos in Iowa

Iowa began down the path of casino gambling in 1989 after the legislature enacted a bill allowing riverboat gambling to kick off the state’s gambling industry. The state negotiated tribal gaming compacts with local Native American groups in 1992 and the first tribal casinos opened later that year.

Racetracks got in on the action in 1994 after legislation was passed allowing qualified tracks to install slot machines in an effort to boost the racing industry. The legislature added on to that in 2005 to allow table games at tracks to effectively authorize the first racinos. The state again amended its gambling laws in 2007, this time removing the requirement that casinos be located above water.

Today, Iowa has a bustling gambling industry consisting of 19 state-licensed casinos and racetrack-casinos (racinos) that combine to create a $1.5. billion industry that generates more than $400 million per year for charitable causes and state funding.

State law requires all commercial casinos to donate a portion of their revenue to local charities. Each casino has an agreement in place with a qualified sponsoring organization (QSO) that is designated to receive a portion of each casino’s revenue. Currently, commercial casinos contribute roughly $40 million per year to charitable organizations.

The state is also home to four tribal casinos that are regulated by Native American regulators. In all, there are 23 land-based casinos in Iowa.

List of Iowa Casinos:

  • 18 commercial casinos
  • 1 commercial racino (racetrack-casino)
  • 4 tribal casinos
Commercial Casinos
 
Ameristar Council Bluffs

2200 River Road
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

Casino Queen Marquette

100 Anti Monopoly
Marquette, IA 52158

Catfish Bend Casino

3001 Winegard Drive
Burlington, IA 52601

Diamond Jo Dubuque

301 Bell Street
Dubuque, IA 52001

Diamond Jo Worth

777 Diamond Jo Lane
Northwood, IA 50459

Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort

1415 Grand Falls Blvd
Larchwood, IA 51241

Hard Rock Casino & Hotel

111 3rd Street
Sioux City, IA 51101

Harrah’s Council Bluffs

One Harrahs Blvd
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs

2701 23rd Avenue
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo

777 Isle of Capri Blvd
Waterloo, IA 50701

Isle of Capri Bettendorf

1777 Isle Parkway
Bettendorf, IA 52722

Lakeside Hotel & Casino

777 Casino Drive
Osceola, IA 50213

Q Casino and Hotel

1855 Greyhound Park Road
Dubuque, IA 52001

Rhythm City Casino Resort

7077 Elmore Ave
Davenport, IA 52807

Riverside Casino & Golf Resort

3184 Hwy 22
Riverside, IA 52327

Wild Rose Clinton

777 Wild Rose Drive
Clinton, IA 52732

Wild Rose Emmetsburg

777 Main Street
Emmetsburg, IA 50536

Wild Rose Jefferson

777 Wild Rose Drive
Jefferson, IA 50129

Prairie Meadows Casino & Hotel

1 Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009

Native American Casinos
Blackbird Bend Casino

7214 210th St
Onawa, IA 51040

Prairie Flower Casino

1031 Ave H
Carter Lake, IA 51510

WinnaVegas Casino Resort

1500 330th Street
Sloan, IA 51055

Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel

1504 305th Street
Tama, IA 52339

Poker in Iowa

Poker is legal in Iowa at authorized land-based locations. There are generally two ways to play poker legally in Iowa. One is to visit a licensed casino where you can play a wide variety of games at a wide range of stakes. For serious poker players and those looking for action, this is by far your best bet.

Iowa also permits small stakes social poker games if they meet a number of requirements such as having a social gambling license, the participants have a social relationship that extends beyond gambling, the game is not run for a profit and participants do not win or lose more than $200 in any 24-hour period.

In-Poker Poker Rooms

Catfish Bend Poker Room

  • 1-6 tables depending on demand
  • 10% rake (max $4)
  • Wide variety of cash games & tournaments
  • Closed Mondays/Tuesdays

3001 Winegard Drive
Burlington, IA 52601

Diamond Jo Worth Poker Room

  • 7 tables
  • Limit and no-limit Holdem, Omaha and 7 Card Stud
  • Multiple guaranteed prize pool tournaments each week

777 Diamond Jo Lane
Northwood, IA 50459

Grand Falls Poker Room

  • 8 tables
  • Limit up to $3/$6; no limit up to $2/$5
  • Frequent tournaments
  • Bad beat jackpot

1415 Grand Falls Blvd
Larchwood, IA 51241

Horseshoe Council Bluffs Poker Room

  • 18 tables
  • Texas Holdem and Omaha
  • Limit up to $10/$20; no limit up to $2/$5
  • Daily tournaments

2701 23rd Avenue
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

Q Casino Poker Room

  • 4 tables
  • Straight flush jackpots
  • Closed Mondays/Tuesdays

1855 Greyhound Park Road
Dubuque, IA 52001

Riverside Casino Poker Room

  • 10 tables
  • Holdem, Omaha, Omaha H/L, Big O, 7 Card Stud
  • Limit starting at $3/$6; no limit up to $2/$5
  • Multiple tournaments each week

3184 Hwy 22
Riverside, IA 52327

Prairie Meadows Poker Room

  • 9 tables
  • Bad beat jackpot
  • Multiple tournaments each week

1 Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009

WinnaVegas Poker Room

  • 4 tables
  • Multiple tournaments each week
  • Closed Wednesdays/Thursdays

1500 330th Street
Sloan, IA 51055

Meskwaki Casino Poker Room

  • 10 tables
  • No limit and fixed limit cash games
  • Daily tournaments

1504 305th Street
Tama, IA 52339

 

Fantasy Sports in Iowa

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) are legal in Iowa, but this wasn’t always the case. Up until 2019, state gaming laws were interpreted as prohibiting fantasy sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings from doing business inside Iowa.

That changed in mid-2019 with the passage of the same law that also legalized traditional sports betting. The passage of that law finally removed Iowa from the ever-shrinking list of holdout states that still restrict online fantasy contests.

Under the new law, fantasy site operators must be licensed and adhere to a standard set of regulations such as enforcing a minimum age of 21 to play, prohibiting the employees of fantasy sites from participating in their own contests, keeping players’ funds in a segregated bank account for safekeeping and other rules of the sort designed for consumer protection.

Licensed Iowa Fantasy Sites

The Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission is responsible for issuing DFS licenses and should make its first determinations soon. With a low licensing fee and sensible regulations, we anticipate most established fantasy sites to apply for licenses.

Some of the major DFS sites likely to open their doors to Iowa in the near future include:

  • DraftKings
  • FanDuel
  • FantasyDraft
  • Draft.com

Iowa Racing Betting

In-person and online racing betting are both legal in Iowa. Racing betting was first legalized in Iowa with the passage of the Pari-Mutuel Wagering Act in 1983, which also created the state’s Racing & Gaming Commission.

Lawmakers have since bolstered the industry’s staying power with additional legislation. Wagering on races held elsewhere via simulcasting was legalized in 1989, gambling games at racetracks were authorized in 1994 and legislation allowing advance deposit wagering (online betting) was passed in 2011.

Today, Iowa is home to a modest racing industry overall with just a single horse track and one greyhound track in operation, but licensed racing betting sites may be accessed to bring a world of racing to your mobile device or PC.

Legal Horse Racing Betting Sites in IA:

  • TVG.com
  • BetAmerica.com
  • TwinSpires.com

List of Racetracks in IA:

Prairie Meadows Racetrack

1 Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009

Iowa Greyhound Park

 1899 Greyhound Park Drive
Dubuque, IA 52001

Off-Track Betting in Iowa

Off-track betting (OTB) is legal in Iowa at casinos whether or not they hold live races. In the past, the only place to bet on races held in other parts of the country was to visit one of the state’s licensed racetracks.

The Iowa legislature changed that in 2014 to allow all commercial casinos to offer OTB. Tribal casinos are also able to offer OTB services under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Now, a handful of casinos will let you place parimutuel wagers on races held around the US.

Wild Rose Clinton OTB

777 Wild Rose Drive
Clinton, IA 52732

Prairie Meadows OTB

1 Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009

Iowa Greyhound Park OTB

1899 Greyhound Park Drive
Dubuque, IA 52001

Meskwaki OTB Racebook

1504 305th Street
Tama, IA 52339

Iowa Lottery

The Iowa Lottery was established in 1985 and has raised billions to date for various state programs. Some lawmakers have expressed interest in authorizing online lottery ticket sales, but nothing has come of those efforts to date. Currently, lottery tickets may only be purchased in-person at authorized retailers.

An IA Lottery mobile app was released in 2017 and allows players to scan tickets to check for winners, enter losing tickets into Play It Again promotions and to find the nearest authorized retailer. Although the app does not support actual ticket sales, the IA Lottery will be well-prepared should lawmakers revisit the issue once again.

Revenue raised by the IA Lottery is earmarked for three main causes: The Iowa Veterans Trust Fun, the Vision Iowa Program and the state’s General Fund.

Games offered by the IA Lottery:

  • Powerball: Powerball is the international king of lotteries, home to the biggest jackpots in the world and maker of billionaires. Many states participate in Powerball and all those tickets sold across the country support jackpots that have at times ballooned north of a billion dollars.
  • Mega Millions: Mega Millions launched in 1996 and now reigns as the biggest competitor to Powerball. This one too has created new billionaires with jackpots reaching at times into 10-figure territory. Mega Millions is almost identical to Powerball other than drawings being held on different days of the week.
  • Lotto America: Lotto America another multi-state game that functions sort of like Powerball and Mega Millions, but with smaller jackpots and much better odds.
  • Lucky for Life: The creators of Lucky for Life cleverly took what is fundamentally a standard lottery game and simply changed the way payouts are structured to make it a very tempting game. The top prize in Lucky for Life is to receive $1,000 a day for life and the second prize is $25,000 a day for life. Winners can also just take a lump sum payout should they wish.
  • Pick 3: Iowa’s own Pick 3 launched in 1998 as a simple twice-daily drawing game in which players pick three numbers from a range of 0-9. A range of prize levels offer payouts for matching the numbers in any order, in that exact order or simply matching a pair of numbers. Win up to $3,000.
  • Pick 4: Another local game and similar to Pick 3 except you choose four numbers from a range of 0-9. Numerous prize levels with a top prize of $30,000. This one is also drawn twice a day.
  • InstaPlay: The Iowa Lottery dubs these “scratchless scratch tickets” because you simply purchase at the terminal and see instantly if you’ve won. It feels a lot like buying an entry to a drawing, except you don’t actually have to wait for a drawing. Numerous game types are available, including a progressive jackpot game.
  • Pull-tabs: Pull-tabs work a lot like scratch-off games, except you pull a tab to reveal the symbols underneath. You can purchase pull-tabs from lottery vending machines at convenience stores, restaurants and bars.
  • Scratch Games: Instant win scratch-off games are a lottery stable and you’ll always find at least a couple dozen on offer at any time. Ticket prices range from as little as $1 to as much as $30 with prizes topping out at $300,000.

Iowa Lottery FAQs

How old do I have to be to purchase IA Lottery tickets?

The minimum age to purchase lottery tickets and claim prizes in Iowa is 21. Minors may play games purchased for them by others but must have a parent or guardian sign tickets to claim any prizes.

Can I use a credit card to play lottery games in Iowa?

No. You may use a debit card, but state law prohibits the use of credit cards to buy tickets.

Do casinos sell lottery tickets?

Yes. Some casinos are authorized lottery retailers.

Do I have to be a state resident to play or claim a prize?

No. The Iowa lottery is open to anyone 21 or older.

Games of Skill

Games of skill are regulated in Iowa by any one of a number of laws depending on how those games are operated and who operates them. The laws in this area can get fairly complex, but the main thing for players to know is there are a variety of ways in which games of skill may be played legally in Iowa.

Skill based amusement games such as those found in Chuck-E-Cheese are considered “amusement concessions” and are regulated by 99B.31 of the Iowa Code. These games offer non-cash prizes that may not be valued at more than $100. Some Iowa lawmakers have considered amending the code to raise the maximum value to $950 in order to attract bigger chains such as Dave & Buster’s.

Charitable organizations that wish to offer carnival-style games of skill must be licensed in the same manner as organizations that wish to offer bingo or other gambling games.

Iowa tends to employ a strict definition of “skill” when it comes to determining whether a game is legal under existing law or if it is regulated as an actual gambling game.

The best example of this strict interpretation can be found in Banilla Games v. Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals from 2018. That case involved a manufacturer of gaming machines designed to look like slots but altered to be based on skill.

The manufacturer wanted them to be regulated as skill games which would have allowed them to be placed in locations such as laundromats and convenience stores. Otherwise, the games would have been subject to state gambling laws which restrict such games to locations holding liquor licenses.

These games can be found in numerous states and pretty much always operate in a legal grey area. They look like slots and people tend to play them as if they are slots, but technically they have a skill element.

The Iowa Supreme Court, however, determined the games meet the state’s definition of gambling. The Supreme Court found that even when players adopted a perfect strategy in those games, the machines only achieved a theoretical payout rate of 98%. This was enough to classify the machines as gambling games despite the skill element.

Betting on eSports in Iowa

Iowa law is a bit vague on the subject of eSports betting, both as a competitor and player. The sports betting law that was passed in 2019 does not mention eSports one way or another, so time will have to tell in that regard.

When it comes to betting on your own matches as a competitor, Iowa law seems to allow that as a form of skill-based gaming similar to competing in a golf tournament with prizes. However, this is not entirely clear, and some skill gaming sites restrict customers from Iowa.

Strategy gaming websites also operate in Iowa. The largest of these is WorldWinner.com, which runs competitive versions of popular games such as Bejeweled, Scrabble, Angry Birds and so on.

Skill Gaming Websites in Iowa:

  • WorldWinner.com (strategy gaming)
  • GamerSaloon.com (eSports)

Iowa Electronic Markets

The Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM) is an online futures trading market that allows participants to wager on the outcomes of upcoming events. The IEM works sort of like a betting site, but rather than betting against the house, players trade contracts with one another that expire at either $1 or $0 depending on the outcome of the future event.

For example, players trading contracts on the outcome of the next Presidential election may buy and sell contracts for a Republican win or contracts for a Democrat win. If players generally see both candidates as evenly-matched, contracts for each would be traded back and forth at around $0.50 each.

After the election, the contracts for the winning candidate would be valued at $1.00 while contracts for the losing candidate would expire worthless. Thus, as one candidate looks increasingly likely to win the presidency, shares for that candidate rise in value based on market demand. The inverse happens to shares for the candidate that appears to be losing.

IEM was established in 1988 by the University of Iowa as a research and education tool for students and faculty but accepts customers from around the world. This type of thing would normally be illegal, but IEM has received no-action letters from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission owing to its educational purposes and lack of profit-seeking.

Iowa Gambling Law

Iowa’s gambling laws are in some ways lenient and in other ways strict. On one hand, the state regulates and authorizes numerous forms of gambling to include casinos, sports betting, poker, horse racing and fantasy sports.

On the other hand, Iowa criminal code comes down hard on anything that may even smell like unregulated gambling. Iowa’s tough criminal laws on gambling prohibit just about everything that doesn’t take place inside a casino or that isn’t operated by a licensed provider aside from certain low-stakes games.

Chapter 725.7 of the Iowa Code provides a wide-ranging definition of gambling. Other than games offered by licensed providers, it is a crime to “participate in a game for any sum of money or other property of any value” and to “make any bet.”

This wide-ranging definition of gambling leaves little wiggle room and it is the reason daily fantasy sites did not operate anywhere within the state until new legislation was passed in 2019.

While Iowa’s criminal code does not leave much room for casual and social gambling, players within the state have plenty of legal options through casinos and approved online gambling providers.

Iowa Casino Law

Useful links:

Gambling at casinos and racetracks is regulated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC). The IRGC was first established as the Racing Commission in 1983 with the passage of the Pari-Mutuel Wagering Act dealing with racing betting.

The Excursion Gambling Boat Act was approved in 1989 and numerous county referendums were held thereafter to launch the state’s first full-fledged casinos. The first riverboat casinos opened in 1991 and the duties of the Racing Commission were expanded to include regulating casino gambling. This is when the Racing Commission became the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

All casinos were required to operate on water up until a new law was passed in 2007 removing that requirement. This gave the industry some much-needed breathing room and annual commercial casino revenue now hovers around the $1.5 billion (pg. 39) mark.

Horse and greyhound tracks entered the gambling business in 1994 after the legislature approved a law allowing them to host slot machines. Additional legislation in 2005 was passed to once again expand the gambling options at racetracks – this time authorizing table games.

The Iowa gambling industry is also unique in that all casinos are required by state law to direct a portion of annual revenue to a qualifying charitable organization. Upwards of $100 million a year is provided to local charities and community projects through this effort, and even counties without casinos receive benefits. Iowa is the only state in the Union with a law of this sort on the books.

Tribal casinos operate in Iowa under gaming compacts negotiated in 1992 as required by the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

As is the case across the country, tribal groups generally have the authority to offer any form of gambling that is authorized anywhere else in the state. The legalization of sports betting, for example, has opened the door for tribal casinos to also operate their own sportsbooks.

Sports Betting Law

Useful links:

In-person and mobile sports betting were legalized in Iowa with the passage of SF 617 in 2019. The bill amended existing state laws regarding gambling to formally authorize sports betting and establish a handful of baseline regulations such as prohibiting athletes from betting on their own games and setting the minimum age to bet on sports at 21.

Online and mobile sports betting are both allowed under the law. Casinos that obtain sports betting licenses from the IRGC are permitted to operate up to two individually-branded betting websites in partnership with third party companies that specialize in online gaming. That’s in addition to any in-person sportsbooks operated by each casino.

Key IA Sports Betting Regulations and Info

  • Minimum age to bet on sports in Iowa: 21+
  • Mobile betting permitted? Yes, each casino may operate up to two mobile sportsbooks
  • Will tribal casinos open sportsbooks? Yes
  • Mobile registration: If you wish to bet online through a licensed mobile app or website, you must first register in person at a local casino. This requirement is only in effect until 1 January 2021
  • Types of wagers allowed: Pre-game and in-game wagers allowed
  • College betting allowed? Yes, but prop bets on in-state college games are prohibited
  • Tax rate: Casinos to pay 6.75% state tax on sports betting revenue
  • Licensing fees: Casinos to pay $45,000 for sports betting application and $10,000 annual renewal fee
  • Who regulates IA sports betting? Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission

Iowa Poker Law

Useful links:

Poker is legal in Iowa when it occurs inside a licensed casino or if it is organized as a social game and meets certain requirements.

For private home games hosted between individuals, a game is considered legal if it meets all of the following requirements as specified by 99B.42 and 99B.45 in the Iowa Code:

  • All participants have an existing social relationship that extends beyond playing poker
  • The game does not take place on any school property
  • The game is conducted in a fair and honest manner
  • The game must not be run for a profit (i.e. charging fees or a rake)
  • No participant wins or loses more than $200 in a 24-hour period
  • All players must have the option to take their turn playing as the dealer

Licensed alcohol establishments may also apply for a license to host social poker games under section 99B.43. These licenses cost $150 and includes the above restrictions as well as these rules:

  • The liquor license holder and employees may not act as the sponsor, banker or cashier for the game except as a participant while playing under the same rules as all the other players
  • No one under 21 may participate

Daily Fantasy Sports Law

Useful links:

Iowa legalized daily fantasy and actual sports betting in one shot with SF 617 in 2019. The bill made the biggest waves for legalizing sports betting, but it also finally cleared the way for daily fantasy sports.

Under SF 617, fantasy sports operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings must apply for licenses from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission before offering their services in Iowa. Fantasy sports licenses are issued at a cost of $5,000 and require licensees to comply with the following requirements:

  • Prevent employees from participating in fantasy contests hosted by their own gaming sites
  • Ensure all customers at least 21 years of age
  • Prevent athletes, coaches and other sporting officials from participating in contests upon which they could have an influence in the real world
  • Publish on their websites the phone numbers of problem gambling resources
  • Publish the number of entrants allowed in each contest and prevent customers from submitting more than the maximum number of entries specified by the contest’s ruleset (i.e. if a contest says players may submit up to five lineups, the fantasy site must ensure players are prevented from submitting more than five lineups)
  • Keep customer funds segregated from the daily operational funds of the fantasy operator
  • Submit to an annual audit
  • Pay an annual $1,000 license renewal fee

Iowa Racing Betting Law

Useful links:

The Iowa Pari-Mutuel Wagering Act was approved in 1983 to authorize greyhound and horse racing betting. The law now occupies Chapter 99D of the Iowa Code. Advance deposit wagering (online and mobile betting) was legalized in 2011 with additional legislation that further amended Chapter 99D.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission regulates horse racing and parimutuel wagering today in addition to casino gambling, daily fantasy sports and sports betting. The Commission also issues licenses for racetracks and individuals who work in the racing industry.

Lottery Law

Useful links:

The Iowa Lottery Authority Act was passed in 1985 to legalize a state lottery and establish a regulatory body to oversee all operations. The first instant win tickets were sold just a few months later and the first draw game was held the following year.

Under the Iowa Lottery Act, the lottery is required by law to “be operated and managed in a manner that provides continuing entertainment to the public, maximizes revenues, and ensures that the lottery is operated with integrity and dignity and free from political influence.”

Originally, Iowa Law specified that all revenue raised by the lottery would go to an economic development project called the Iowa Plan. Lawmakers later amended the law to earmark revenue for environmental and cultural causes, and then amended the law yet again to direct all revenue to the General Fund.

The Iowa Lottery Authority does not operate as a part of the state, but rather as a state agency. The law also requires the lottery to be entirely self-funded; no money may be taken from the state to operate the lottery.

Bingo and Charitable Gambling Law

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Charitable organizations are permitted to offer bingo, raffles, gambling and games of skill under 99B of the Iowa Code. Qualifying nonprofit organizations must apply for a Charitable Gambling License here and a sales tax permit here before hosting bingo or other gambling games as a fundraising activity.

Organizations that hold a bingo license may host up to three bingo occasions a week, but not more than 15 a month. Licensed bingo games must also be staffed by volunteers and all equipment purchased from authorized vendors. Players must be 18 or older to participate.

A bingo game may also be run without a license if it meets all of the following conditions:

  • Players are not charged to enter the premises
  • Players are not charged to play
  • All prizes are donated
  • The bingo game is run for recreation, not as a fundraising activity

Sports Pools

Useful links:

Full-on sports betting is now legal in Iowa, but licensed alcohol establishments may still run sports pools with a $150 social gaming license. Liquor establishments may only run grid-style games, but office workers and the like may run their own bracket contests anywhere other than inside a liquor establishment.

Legal sports pools at bars must meet these conditions:

  • Players cannot be charged more than $5 to enter
  • The maximum winnings to all players are $500
  • All money taken in is awarded back in the form of prizes to players
  • Rules of the game must be conspicuously displayed
  • The game is conducted in a fair and honest manner
  • All participants must be 21 or older

NCAA tournament bracket contests may be held anywhere other than inside a licensed alcohol establishment and must adhere to these rules:

  • No participant wins or loses more than $200 in one more or games during any 24-hour period
  • 100% of entry fees must be paid out as prizes (organizer cannot run the bracket for a profit)
  • A social relationship must exist between all players
  • All participants must be individuals and may not participate as the agent of another person
  • The game is conducted in a fair and honest manner
  • There is no minimum age to participate

Games of Skill Law

Useful links:

Games of skill fall into two broad categories under Iowa law. In one category are mechanical games such as crane games you might find at an arcade and electronic games that you might find at a tavern.

In the other category are competitive games played against other players for money. Skill gaming websites such as WorldWinner.com and GamerSaloon.com fall under this category. The legality of games in this category is highly uncertain, and not all skill gaming sites operate in Iowa due to the uncertainty.

Games in the first category are considered “amusement concessions” under state law and are regulated by 99B.31 and 99B.53 of the Iowa Code.

Licenses are required to operate amusement concession games at a cost of $50 per year. Such games must also meet certain requirements to be considered legal:

  • The rules of the game are prominently posted
  • The cost to play is $5 or less
  • The machine cannot display prizes that cannot be won
  • Cash prizes may not be awarded
  • The game may not operate “on a build-up or pyramid” basis
  • Living animals cannot be awarded
  • The retail value of any one prize does not exceed $100
  • The machine operator may not buy prizes back from players
  • “Concealed numbers or conversion charts” are not used to play the game
  • The operator may not have the ability to choose winners
  • The game is conducted in a fair and honest manner

Electronic and mechanical amusement concession games in which the outcome is not determined primarily by skill may only be operated in certain liquor establishments. These games must be registered with the state and are subject to additional regulations found in 99B.53.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gambling in Iowa

What is the minimum gambling age in Iowa?

The minimum age for all forms of gambling in Iowa is 21+ across the board:

  • Casinos: 21+
  • Poker: 21+
  • Fantasy sports: 21+
  • Horse racing betting: 21+
  • Lottery: 21+
  • Charitable bingo: 21+

Do I have to pay taxes on my gambling winnings in Iowa?

Yes. State and federal taxes apply, but you should speak to a tax professional for advice related to your specific situation. Casinos, racetracks, bingo games and the state lottery may also withhold a portion of your winnings exceed the following amounts:

  • Lottery prizes: $600+
  • Prizes from games of skill, games of chance, bingo or raffles: $600+
  • Horse and greyhound winnings: $1,000+
  • Slot machine winnings: $1,200+

You can read more about the Iowa gambling tax landscape here.

State Problem Gambling Resources

Iowa has a couple of state-specific resources open to residents who think they may have a gambling problem. The following resources offer hotlines, advice, referral services and more for anyone needing help – including friends and family of suspected problem gamblers.

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