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What 2021 might bring for sports betting in Iowa


This news story was published on January 28, 2021.
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A new year is now unfolding, President Biden is already making sweeping changes, and despite the pandemic continuing to sap resources and focus, states across America are dealing with their usual diverse orders of business, introducing new initiatives, policies and laws. In Iowa, one of the key issues for state legislators has been sports betting.

Iowa’s sports betting journey so far has, on the whole, been positive. Legislators have been willing to make positive moves when it comes to the industry, and online sports betting has been legal for almost two years. As a result, attention has now shifted largely towards the actions of operators, rather than legislators. But what’s likely to come next as 2021 gets underway? This article will look at what steps the Hawkeye State could take over the coming year when it comes to the sports betting industry. 

The end of PASPA

The world of sports betting has been completely transformed over the course of just the three years since 2018. That was when the highest court in the land confirmed that it would be kicking the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which is more commonly known as PASPA, off the statute books – and in practice, ending the block on states deciding for themselves whether or not to permit sports betting.

Some states, such as Pennsylvania, enthusiastically jumped on the post-PASPA bandwagon and made key strides towards introducing new legislation as soon as possible. Lawmakers in Iowa also moved into this pattern and made sports betting legal in the middle of 2019. Now, it’s possible to place a sports bet at one of a large range of providers that operate in the state, and the amount earned in overall revenue – rather than the amount taken in bets – is getting close to $10 million a month. In part, this is due to the fact that several of its neighboring states have strict crackdowns on sports betting – meaning travel into Iowa to place sports bets is common, therefore swelling the numbers.

Good news for 2021

Many states across the country are still grappling with basic points, like how to get online sportsbooks off the ground. But Iowa seems to be surging far ahead of these rudimentary questions when it comes to sports betting. As 2020 came to an end, sports bettors in the state received a piece of good news: they will no longer have to visit a brick-and-mortar casino in order to set up an account.

Ever since sports betting was made legal in the state in the middle of 2019, those who fancied placing a wager or two online had to personally visit a local casino in order to open an account. This onerous requirement was lifted at the start of 2021, and customers can now go online to set up their accounts. This is also more suitable in the coronavirus pandemic age, as it is likely to incentivize remaining at home for the sake of safety. 

What’s next?

According to officials in Iowa, at least, there’s enormous interest on the part of sportsbook operators looking to open up in the state. One press piece quoted Brian Ohorilko, who serves as the administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, claiming that there was a maximum of 10 such companies in the pipeline. “It is more likely than not that our market will look very different by summer once this new wave of applications subsides,” he was quoted as saying. 

If this materializes, the main consequence for sports bettors in Iowa is likely to be that 2021 will herald a new-found era of choice. There are already eight operators working in the state, including big names such as DraftKings and FanDuel. It’s likely that the “handle” (or the total amount bet) for these and the new operators will soar once the move is made – with some expecting that it might even enter nine figures per month. Currently, the handle level can’t seem to surpass the region of $87 million.

Ultimately, it’s a little too early to tell exactly how the debate on sports betting legislation is likely to play out in Iowa over the coming 12 months or so. Iowa is already so far ahead when it comes to the legalization of sports betting that there appears to be little else that the sector needs to accomplish. All that sports bettors in the state can do is keep an eye on what legislators and operators are up to, and be patient as the developments roll in.

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