Surprising Nobody, Iowa Sports Betting Handle Smashes Record In First Month Of Online Registration

Posted By Derek Helling on February 5, 2021

If the total Iowa sports betting handle for the first month of online registration isn’t enough to give IA lawmakers a sense of “buyer’s remorse” on in-person registration (IPR), nothing will.

The nearly $150 million wagered in January 2021 not only smashed the previous record for handle in a month but was a massive spike compared to IA sports betting revenue in January 2020.

Speaking further of outcomes that everyone in the industry could have predicted, William Hill has a serious threat to its market share throne in IA. It’s an exciting time for stakeholders because there’s a new market share king, and another record for handle.

Iowa sports betting handle a new record

Altogether, Iowans and visitors to the state bet over $149.52 million last month, according to the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission report. That’s an increase of about $44.71 million or about 30% from the previous record set in December 2020. The year-over-year comparison is even more impressive, however.

In January 2020, Iowa sportsbooks handled only $58.02 million. That means handle was up nearly 62% year over year. Obviously, the option to register for sportsbook accounts completely online is a reason for the huge spike. A detailed breakdown of the numbers is below.

LicenseeOnline Brand(s)HandleOnline HandleRetail HandleRevenueTaxes (6.75%)
Diamond Jo - DubuqueFanDuel | BetMGM$23,770,307$22,663,677$1,106,630$1,759,462$118,764
Prairie MeadowsWilliam Hill$23,152,724$21,629,882$1,522,842$1,840,683$124,246
Wild Rose - JeffersonDraftKings | BetRivers$21,987,945$21,639,116$348,829$1,025,005$69,188
Diamond Jo - WorthFanDuel | BetMGM$11,440,923$4,193,115$7,247,808$1,152,228$77,775
Isle - WaterlooWilliam Hill$10,914,181$10,419,968$494,212$597,712$40,346
Wild Rose - ClintonDraftKings | BetRivers$10,237,296$9,994,543$242,753$608,927$41,103
Wild Rose - EmmetsburgDraftKings | BetRivers$8,606,011$8,442,698$163,313$503,712$34,001
HorseshoeWilliam Hill$6,207,377$2,192,380$4,014,997$525,371$35,463
Catfish BendPointsBet$5,378,564$4,993,786$384,778$545,921$36,850
Rhythm CityElite$4,377,408$3,517,367$860,042$383,733$25,902
Isle - BettendorfWilliam Hill$3,295,729$2,712,974$582,755$294,181$19,857
LakesideWilliam Hill$3,253,750$2,401,573$852,177$314,606$21,236
Grand FallsElite | Betfred$2,368,430$567,209$1,801,221$251,661$16,987
Hard RockHard Rock$2,027,162$987,897$1,039,265$258,252$17,432
Q CasinoQ Sportsbook$1,152,345$423,170$729,175$113,615$7,669
Harrah'sWilliam Hill$732,691$463,657$269,034$93,308$6,298

Bettors placed a staggering 80.8% of wagers online as opposed to retail in the month, further showing the untapped potential the market has had all along but simply chose to forfeit during the IPR period. There are some reasons why this isn’t exactly a “corn-to-corn” comparison, however. Those are:

  • January 2021 boasts BetMGM and BetRivers, which weren’t operating in the state in January 2020.
  • In January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had not yet begun, so fewer Iowans were prioritizing staying in their homes and looking for available entertainment.
  • IA sportsbooks weren’t devoting the same resources to marketing themselves in January 2020 as they are now.

Still, it’s noteworthy that handle increased to such a degree when last January, legal sportsbooks had not yet launched in neighboring Illinois. Sportsbooks fared better last month than any previous, though.

Iowa sportsbooks held over $11.34 million, which is also a new monthly record. That’s an uptick of 71.6% year over year, as well. The state also brought in a record tax haul of nearly $766,000.

A further breakdown suggests that the expiration of the IPR has dramatically reformed the landscape of the Iowa gaming industry. Location is still important but in a different way.

William Hill IA no longer on the throne

Since legal Iowa sports betting launched, William Hill has been the market leader. That’s been because it has the greatest number of retail books in the state. Because sports bettors had to visit a casino to register, they were in the best position to net the most customers.

Now, getting the brand in front of the greatest number of eyes is of utmost importance. William Hill doesn’t seem to be as proficient in that regard, as the combined might of other operators in the state have surpassed it:

  • William Hill: 39.8% of handle in January 2021
  • BetRivers/DraftKings: 40.1% of handle in January 2021*

*BetRivers and DraftKings both operate under the Wild Rose Casinos’ licenses in Iowa. The Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission’s monthly reports do not break handle down by the operator, only the licensee.

William Hill has a prime opportunity to try to wrestle back its lead this month, however. This coming Sunday will likely decide that contest when betting on Super Bowl 55 begins, along with providing all the necessary material for a third consecutive record-breaking month in Iowa.

February 2021 totals should be Super (Bowl)

Sunday, Feb. 7, will be the single biggest sports betting day this year in Iowa and across the country. It seems to be a safe bet now that wagering on the Super Bowl is better this year, that the Iowa betting handle will surpass $150 million in a month.

Add that to the fact that the Iowa Hawkeyes men’s basketball team is competing for conference titles and a high seed in the scheduled NCAA D1 men’s basketball tournament. The current records for handle — and if sportsbooks do well again, revenue — probably won’t stand long.

Everyone in the legal sports betting industry can look at Iowa’s latest numbers and imagine what could have been. To a large degree, we can start quantifying exactly how much online registration is worth in Iowa.

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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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