Nineteen casinos in Iowa are on board with the sports betting law, which adds online and retail sportsbooks to the Hawkeye State’s riverboat and land-based venues.
As things stand, there aren’t any state-regulated online casinos. Iowa residents and visitors can enjoy online slots and casino games at sweepstakes-based online casinos instead.
Everything you need to enjoy casino games in Iowa is on this page.
We look at Iowa’s current online casino options, what future regulated online casinos might be like and information about the brick-and-mortar casinos around the state.
When the first riverboat casinos in Iowa opened in 1991, they had to be in motion. Licenses for four boats, the Dubuque Casino Belle, Emerald Lady, Diamond Lady and The President, were required to sail on their respective rivers during the season.
Each license would also require a local referendum. Before this, there was only pari-mutuel betting on greyhounds and horses, a lottery and limited charity gambling. Over the next few years, tribal casinos and additional riverboats came to be.
It was a 2004 amendment that saw the need for the riverboat casinos to be removed from the statutes. At this point, the rules for racetrack casinos and the (now moored) boats were equalized.
Fifteen years later to today, the most significant change to Iowa gambling laws in recent history took place with the passing of bill SF 617. This bill allowed for sports betting — live and online — as well as another land-based casino.
Sports betting in Iowa would begin on Aug. 15.
Compared with many states, Iowa has a broad selection of live casinos; however, many are the old riverboat casinos. These are now moored, and big hotel and leisure complexes were built around them. There are also Indian casinos and land-based racetrack venues.
Below, is an overview of the biggest and best Iowa casinos, along with location and facilities (including sportsbooks):
Tribal Casinos: In addition to this long list of land-based, racetrack and riverboat casinos, Iowa has four tribal casino venues. These include Blackbird Bend, Meskwaki, Prairie Flower and WinnaVegas casino.
The Iowa Gaming Association takes problem gambling seriously and offers a state-wide self-exclusion program.
The program allows anyone to voluntarily join a list that will stop them from entering any of the land-based or riverboat casinos. The tribal casinos are not part of this scheme.
Also, there is an assistance hotline in Iowa. Dial 1-800-BETS-OFF, and you’ll reach someone who is trained to assist you. You can also visit online resources at www.yourlifeiowa.org.
There are treatment programs and licensed treatment providers available via these state resources. Identifying problem gambling is not always easy; you’ll be able to find self-assessment questionnaires online to highlight any issues.
Bill SF 617 does not include the provision for online casinos. As in many states, many people hope that the successful rollout of sports betting online will improve the chances of future legislation.
You can legally enjoy casino slots and (limited) table games via sweepstakes casinos. These operators work countrywide using rules usually employed by companies for contests. The most prominent brands are Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots.
By looking at New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, we can see what a future regulated online casino market might look like in Iowa.
With no licenses made available in bill SF 617, this would require an extension to the current laws.
Casinos in NJ and PA are significant sources of revenue for these states. Combining with a successful launch of online sports betting, it could trigger amended legalization in the future.
As with the sportsbooks, brick-and-mortar casinos in other states have partnered with established providers of casino games. These include major brands like 888, IGT and GAN.
Some casinos are branded around live casinos, too. Examples include SugarHouse (from Rush Street Interactive) and Golden Nugget online in New Jersey.
In addition to the regular slots and table games, regulated online casinos feature new games, including the popular live dealer table games at selected brands.
Most states have sweepstakes laws on their books. These allow companies to give away prizes for (usually free to enter or with purchase) contests.
LuckyLand and Chumba have adopted these laws to offer casino games using a virtual currency called “Sweeps Coins.”
You can get it free Sweeps Coins in several ways, including mail-in offers and social media contests. You can also get free Sweeps as a “gift” when you buy “Gold Coins” (which are for fun play only). If you win with Sweeps Coins, you can legally swap it for dollars and cash it out to your bank account.
Essentially, every time you play, you’ll be entering a super-short sweepstakes contest. While you are playing the games, they don’t feel any different from slots or table games.
You can check out sweepstakes casinos for free by getting free Sweeps Coins. You can use this to enjoy the games and, who knows, maybe win a jackpot.
Chumba Casino gives Iowa gamblers 2 in Sweeps Coins solely for registering.
You can also get free Sweeps Coins by sending a letter to a registered address with your account details. Contests and sharing on social media also give you an avenue for getting Sweeps Coins for free.
A faster way to get started is to buy some “Gold Coins,” which are for entertainment only. The sweepstakes casinos will give you free Sweeps Coins when you buy Gold Coins that you can get with your credit card. LuckyLand Slots will supply you with double Sweeps Coins on your first purchase.
Remember, both brands are completely legal and US-based. They state that the chances of sweepstakes contest laws changing are minimal. If any state did change the regulations, there would need to be plenty of notice, as companies running draws and giveaway marketing contests would need to be involved in the discussions.
Here are the types of games that you may find at future online casinos if regulation in Iowa allows for these:
The live casino and sports betting scene in Iowa is thriving.
There are racecourses, land-based casinos riverboats (that are now static) and tribal casinos.
In addition to the slots, table games and poker rooms, many Iowa casino sites have leisure facilities. You’ll find restaurants, music and show venues, hotels, bars and nightclubs.
Online casino games are not yet regulated at a state level. The latest gambling legislation brought online sports betting to Iowa bettors.
You can enjoy slots and limited table games at sweepstakes casinos, which operate legally in most states. Otherwise, it is a case of hoping that the rollout of sports betting apps is a big success that prompts future legislation to introduce online casino games.