Why Don’t Iowa Sportsbooks Take College Player Prop Bets?

Written By Derek Helling on November 20, 2019 - Last Updated on December 18, 2019
No college player props in Iowa

Back in September, Iowa residents and visitors might have been mystified as to why they couldn’t legally bet on how many touchdown passes Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley would throw against Iowa State. That’s because college player prop bets are missing from the Iowa legal sports betting scene.

Similarly, some might like to bet on how many points Iowa State Cyclones guard Rasir Bolton will score against the Hawkeyes on Dec. 12. The long and short of it is, you can’t. Those bets are illegal in Iowa.

Why Iowa sportsbooks can’t take college player prop bets

Iowa law expressly forbids sportsbook operators in the state from accepting in-game wagers based on the performance of any college player. That not only includes in-state but out-of-state college/university athletes, as well.

Operators involved in legal sports betting in Iowa can’t take bets on whether Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez will run for a touchdown in the annual “Heroes Game” against the Hawkeyes either, for example. There are, however, some “exceptions” to this rule.

The law doesn’t make futures bets on whether certain college players will win specific awards illegal. Because of that, Iowa sportsbooks were free to take wagers on Martinez winning this year’s Heisman Trophy.

Prop bets and in-game wagers involving college teams are legal, as well. For example, Iowa sportsbooks can take action on how many points the Cyclones will score in their upcoming men’s basketball game.

Some might consider futures bets on players’ season-long statistical performances a gray area. To this point, Iowa sportsbooks seem inclined to avoid them to stay on the safe side.

The reasoning behind this tenet of the law is clear. Whether it serves the intended purpose, however, is questionable.

Why Iowa made these bets illegal in the first place

As with a lot of things in state laws, this directive is the result of a compromise. Some Iowa legislators wanted to ban all betting on college sports, while others desired no wagering restrictions of any kind on college games.

This particular amendment to the law was introduced by Rep. Dave Jacoby. Jacoby was clear about his intent in doing so.

He believed that college athletes were more vulnerable to possible manipulation because they are less compensated for their labor than athletes in other leagues. It’s also clear that it was a concession made to gain other legislators’ support for the bill as a whole.

While this points to another flaw in the draconian compensation model the NCAA and its member institutions employ, there are additional causes for criticism. For one, it’s unclear whether the regulation actually reaches the intended goal.

Does this ban on specific types of bets really work?

As college sports are very popular in the Hawkeye State, it’s hard to imagine the lack of in-game, player-based prop bets going unnoticed. The real question is whether those looking to make those bets will simply give up or seek out other means.

One possible solution for Iowans looking to bet college player props is forthcoming. Illinois’ law has no such ban, so when sports betting launches there, residents could travel across state lines and place those bets.

In the meantime, however, such bets are more likely to be placed using illegal bookies or offshore channels. If that’s the case, that actually brings the threat back to life.

People already involved in illegal betting could be more likely to try to fix those bets. If that happens in this case, it would nullify the stated intent of the ban.

Whether Iowa’s government will ever repeal this part of the law remains to be seen. For now, bettors in Iowa will have to stick to team bets for their in-game wagers on college sports.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. 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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