Online Gambling & Casinos in Iowa
Big Changes for Online Gambling in Iowa
For years the options for gambling online have been limited for Iowa residents. All that changed on May 13th, when governor Kim Reynolds signed bill SF 617 into law. This set up licensing for online sports betting – and lifted the restrictions on Daily Fantasy Sports.
While there was no provision for online casinos or poker rooms in SF 617, there are existing legal options for both of these. Sweepstakes gambling sites mix social casino action with the ability to redeem for real money. Betting online on horse races is also allowed. Existing sites using Advance Deposit Wagering systems are active in the Hawkeye state.
This page covers the full range of online gambling in Iowa. First below, the recent legal changes and what these mean for Iowans is covered. After that the sweepstakes casinos and poker room, plus pari-mutuel online sports betting is discussed. New sports betting in Iowa and DFS, plus some practical information on getting the best from Iowa’s online gambling sites can be found at the end of this page.
2019: Big changes for online gambling in Iowa
While there are a lot of brick and mortar casinos in Iowa, the legislation has been restrictive when it comes to opportunities to gamble online. Even Daily Fantasy Sports, legal in almost every state, was restricted until this year.
All this changed in May of 2019. Bill SF 617 was passed by the senate in April, it was signed into law by governor Kim Reynolds on May 13th. This law expands retail and online gambling opportunities for sports betting fans. This law also allowed for DFS sites to open in Iowa.
It follows several other states which legalized sports betting following the 2018 repeal of PASPA by the supreme court.
Things moved very quickly, with both retail and online sportsbooks opening within a few months. Many more brands are expected online by the end of the year.
What this bill does not include is regulation for online casino games or poker. While states including New Jersey and Pennsylvania bundled these together with online betting – we’ll need to wait for future legislation to see them online in Iowa.
Here are the licensing rules and other details from bill SF 617:
- Each casino can apply for 2 online betting licenses
- $45,000 registration fee, plus $10,000 renewal
- Low 6.75% taxation rate
The new sportsbooks are covered in more detail lower down this page. First, a look at the opportunities to gamble online that were in place before the current legislation was signed.
Online casino games in Iowa: Sweepstakes casinos
Sweepstakes casinos operate nationally using a clever work-around. These sites offer slots and limited table games – and treat each game (or spin) as its own short sweepstakes contest. They operate legally from within the US and even welcome credit cards – though not to buy chips directly.
To stay within state laws, sites including Chumba Casino and Luckyland Slots don’t let you play for dollars. Instead you play for ‘Sweeps Cash’, which you can get for ‘free’ when you purchase gold coins.
You enjoy the online casino games with this virtual currency – then exchange it to dollars and withdraw it if you win.
For some people, this system sounds complex and even ‘shady’.
What you’ll find is that these sites operate legally in 48 states, including Iowa. They offer ways to get Sweeps Cash without buying it directly. As well as free Sweeps Cash with purchase of the play-money only gold coins, you get some for signing up, joining Facebook / Twitter contests and even for sending a letter to their HQ.
What is more, the slots are high quality. Many of them involve colorful themes and complex bonus rounds – with some big progressive jackpots up for grabs too.
Chumba Casino is the biggest Sweepstakes casino brand. They will give you $2 in sweeps cash to try out the games, no deposit needed. Check them out now!
Iowa online gambling: Poker games
There is also an online poker room using Sweepstakes gambling laws. Global Poker is entirely web-based, with no desktop software or apps to download. They have a growing player base – and offer both cash games and tournaments.
These games are almost all Texas Hold’em, with a small number of pot limit Omaha games too.
Again, you’ll play for Sweeps Cash, which is given to you ‘free’ when you purchase play-money chips. You can cash out any profits – and withdraw directly to an Iowa bank account at any point.
Best of all, the games at Global Poker are considered very soft by international site standards.
Iowa online gambling: Betting on horse races with advance deposit wagering
There are many ways to access the pari-mutuel betting pools for horse races in Iowa. Going to the tracks or OTB offices is popular – though you can also gamble online on races around the country.
Horse racing betting sites were already well established before Bill SF 617 introduced sports betting and DFS. These sites, which include brands like Bet America, TVG and TwinSpires, use Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) laws. This allows you to place bets an enter the pari-Mutuel betting pools. You can back individual horses to win or show – or go for bigger odds by predicting the finishers in the correct order.
You will find a lot more to these sites than just access to the pools. There are databases (both free and paid) for past results and form / tips, as well as video streams that show the races as they happen. You will also have opportunities to take part in contests, enjoy bonuses and promotions and (depending on the site) collect loyalty points.
New online gambling opportunities in Iowa
Sports betting has arrived in Iowa, with the first brand to go live being William Hill – in August of 2019 – quickly followed by the Elite Sportsbook. With many more brands actively launching, and 38 sites possible under the new laws, things will get competitive fast in Iowa.
Daily Fantasy Sports: In many states DFS contests for real money have been allowed for years. Iowa was an exception, explicitly banning sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. The new legislation allows these contests, though how popular they will be now that full sports betting is also allowed is currently unknown.
Instead of picking the winner of a game, DFS involves picking a line-up of players from all the scheduled matches. Players are scored on performance, and you win money if your line-up does better than those picked by your rivals. DFS contests work in cash game (one on one or small pools), and larger tournament formats – with plenty of variations available.
Full Sports Betting: Most of the excitement in Iowa is for the launch of full sports betting via mobile apps and websites. This will give access to lines on pro and college sports, individual sports like golf and tennis – plus a range of international sports too.
You can bet on individual matches in many ways. These include straight money line bets, totals, spreads or player props. If you prefer to combine matches, then parlays, round robins and teasers are also available.
New to Iowa is live or in-play betting. This allows you to bet on the action while it is underway. Both regular bets and player props can be included. This works perfectly with mobile devices and is a popular way of enjoying the match-day action.
Sports betting brands in Iowa
While we wait for more official announcements, there are a lot of brands known to be looking to move into all the newly regulated states. These are a mix of the biggest and best-known global sports betting brands, plus some relative newcomers and partnerships with media organizations. With the potential for 38 licenses in Iowa, some or all of the brands below could be making an appearance:
- FoxBet (The Stars Group)
- William Hill
- Scientific Games
Getting the best from the Iowa online gambling sites
Whether you prefer sports betting, online casinos / slots, poker or betting on horse racing – there are opportunities to gamble online from Iowa. Below you will find 5 tips to get the most from these sites.
- Choose a Safe Deposit Method: Legal gambling sites ensure both your online deposits and withdrawals will be smooth and secure. Which method you choose will depend on how comfortable you are with online purchases (as well as what each individual site uses). For some people credit cards are their go-to. If you prefer, then cash (at casino cages) or via PayNearMe, bank transfers or 3rd party systems such as PayPal can be used.
- Gamble Responsibly: Responsible gambling is a key element of legal online gambling sites in Iowa. This involves protection for anyone with a gambling problem, or who thinks they might have one. Avoid sites which don’t have clear information on this area. This should include a self-assessment questionnaire, time out tools, the ability to set deposit and betting limits and (if all else fails) to self-exclude completely.
- Avoid Offshore ‘Grey Market’ Sites: With so many ways to legally gamble online in Iowa, there really is no need to risk playing at the offshore sites. Many sportsbooks, casinos and poker rooms run from outside the country. They are based on Caribbean islands, and many offer quality products. What you’ll miss is oversight. Nobody makes sure that the games are fair, nobody will back you if a site refuses to pay winnings – and there is nobody to turn to if a site simply closes and disappears overnight.
- Manage Your Bankroll: One of the key reasons people enjoying online gambling go broke is because they ignore sound bankroll management practice. The core concepts are not to gamble with money you can’t afford to lose, and to split your bankroll into small portions to smooth out the inevitable volatility of online gambling games. Your ability to reload, and the types of games you play will affect how much you wager each time.
- Take Advantage of Bonus Offers: With so many new online sports betting sites opening in Iowa, there are a lot of bonuses to take advantage of. These include no-deposit free bets, matched welcome bonuses, risk-free first bets, enhanced odds, parlay insurance and comp / loyalty schemes. With some planning, you should be able to give your bankroll a boost via these offers.
Wrapping up: Online gambling sites in Iowa
Compared to many other regulated states, Iowa has moved quickly. The time period between bill SF 617 being signed, and the first regulated online gambling sites opening was an impressive 3 months. William Hill beat their rival sports betting brands to the post – becoming the first Iowa online sportsbook.
William Hill were not the first overall, though, with sweepstakes casinos and poker rooms, plus horse racing betting sites already established in Iowa. Sweepstakes gambling uses a clever work-around. By not allowing the direct purchase of sweeps cash, they are able to treat casino and poker games as short contests.
Sports betting is set to explode, with the potential for 30+ sites in the Hawkeye state. This is bound to offer you a great chance to take advantage of the fierce competition between them (and big marketing budgets coming into the state). DFS contests will also begin.
The biggest question for gambling fans in Iowa is when casino and poker games will also become part of the state laws. There are currently no bills, even at the earliest stages. With a successful roll out of sports betting apps and websites, plus success in other states for casino games – you never know when these might appear in a future bill.