December 2020 Iowa Sports Betting Handle Hits New High, Surpasses $100 Million

Posted on January 8, 2021 - Last Updated on January 9, 2021

For the first time since legal sportsbooks went live in the Hawkeye State, bettors wagered more than $100 million in a month.

The sports betting handle for December 2020 not only set a new record for Iowa, but also hit nine figures for the first time.

Additionally, it comes at a good time for Iowa. With that bar cleared, the reason for optimism about the value of online sports wagering is even greater. While the IA sports betting market may never compete with the most lucrative jurisdictions, it should perform admirably given the circumstances.

Breaking down the record-breaking December sports betting handle in Iowa

Altogether, bettors put down over $104.81 million on sporting events during the last month of 2020. That’s an impressive 17.9% increase from November 2020. It’s also a 44.5% uptick from December 2019.

The month was a good one for Iowa sportsbooks, as revenue hit $7.53 million for the month, the second-highest total yet. With a win rate of just over 7% for the books, it was a good month for bettors, too.

Of the $104.81 million total, $78.07 million — or about 74.5% — came from online bets. That’s a huge jump in online share for IA, as in previous months, the online share has sat between 50%-60%.

The following is a breakdown by the licensee, where there aren’t many surprises:

CasinoHandleOnline HandleRetail HandleRevenueTaxes (6.75%)
Ameristar II$5,873,155.12$0.00$5,873,155.12$771,348.90$52,066.05
Casino Queen - Marquette$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Catfish Bend Casino$2,235,671.86$1,821,992.36$413,679.50$203,882.06$13,762.04
Diamond Jo - Dubuque$9,608,974.49$8,868,006.34$740,968.15$345,751.01$23,338.19
Diamond Jo - Worth$10,939,858.61$4,609,143.41$6,330,715.20$751,010.84$50,693.23
Grand Falls Casino$2,621,512.26$1,210,776.23$1,410,736.03$235,724.89$15,911.43
Hard Rock Casino$2,604,202.76$1,438,751.26$1,165,451.50$209,690.40$14,154.10
Harrah's Council Bluffs Casino & Hotel$483,845.35$242,735.75$241,109.60$55,595.69$3,752.71
Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs$5,923,750.51$1,841,356.27$4,082,394.24$482,269.54$32,553.19
Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo$7,466,408.06$6,919,271.21$547,136.85$530,952.74$35,839.31
Isle of Capri - Bettendorf$3,060,746.30$2,356,119.39$704,626.91$293,936.78$19,840.73
Lakeside Casino$2,166,781.85$1,436,360.13$730,421.72$241,262.43$16,285.21
Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino$22,504,609.08$20,849,912.78$1,654,696.30$1,690,329.01$114,097.21
Q Casino$1,183,062.87$459,742.81$723,320.06$116,491.99$7,863.21
Rhythm City Casino$1,966,300.72$1,220,575.84$745,724.88$229,449.60$15,487.85
Riverside Casino and Golf Resort$6,776,278.28$6,071,670.07$704,608.21$352,812.02$23,814.81
Wild Rose - Clinton$3,984,492.21$3,765,405.16$219,087.05$234,462.91$15,826.25
Wild Rose - Emmetsburg$2,372,016.17$2,133,795.60$238,220.57$95,098.85$6,419.17
Wild Rose - Jefferson$13,043,963.09$12,828,847.49$215,115.60$696,934.55$47,043.08

That online share should be an encouraging sign for the state’s newest online-only operators. Even for the veterans in this market who run both retail and mobile sports betting operations, it’s nothing but good news.

Why sportsbook operators are licking their Iowa chops

The most significant constraint on the market, the state’s in-person registration requirement for online wagering, is now a thing of the past. As a result, these records may not stand for long.

January provides the College Football Playoff championship game and the NFL playoffs. Next month contains the single largest sports betting day of the year, Super Bowl Sunday. That’s assuming those events take place, of course.

Then comes March, which could be especially good for IA sportsbooks this year. The University of Iowa men’s basketball team continues to live in the top five of the AP poll. If the Hawkeyes win the Big Ten and secure a high seeding in the 2021 D1 national tournament, March could be a boon for handle.

Iowa will probably never compete with Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania for the biggest monthly handle figures. It simply lacks the population density and high-profile professional sports options within its borders. For example, it took six months to eclipse $100 million in handle in a month in Illinois, whereas it took 16 months in Iowa.

The biggest upside of getting to this threshold is that success begets success. As sportsbook operators see these figures, they may think twice about passing on Iowa. The licensees still have skins to delve out, so IA may soon compete with the most robust markets in terms of number of sportsbook operators available.

The winners in that situation would be Iowa bettors, as competition in this industry breeds innovation and better promos. As 2021 begins, things are undoubtedly looking up for the Hawkeye State.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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