First Two Weeks Of Legal Sports Betting Revenue Look Promising For Iowa

Written By Derek Helling on October 5, 2019 - Last Updated on December 3, 2019
Iowa sports betting revenue

It isn’t a bumper crop for the Hawkeye State’s treasury yet, but early returns look promising. The first two weeks of Iowa sports betting revenue showed that residents and visitors to the state were ready.

It’s too early to simply project the initial numbers out. If Iowa sports betting performs like this consistently, however, it could be a difference-maker.

Just the facts on Iowa sports betting revenue so far

After legal sports betting in Iowa launched on Aug. 15, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission started keeping track of the activity. The 13 licensees who took wagers at physical and/or mobile sportsbooks got their first look at demand, as well.

The total handle for all casinos in the state for Aug. 15-31 was $8.58 million. Books paid out almost $6.42 million of that total, leaving them around $2.16 million in net receipts.

Of that amount, just under $146,000 went to the state in taxes. Iowa has one of the lowest tax rates on sports betting in the nation at 6.75%.

Some casinos contributed more than others to that tax total over the final 16 days of August, led by Prairie Meadows in the middle of the state.

Prairie Meadows, Ameristar separated from the pack

Two of Iowa’s most prominent casinos combined to account for about half of the total handle in the state by themselves. The Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs and Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Altoona were those two.

A breakdown by licensee in descending order of sports betting handle from August 15-31 is as follows:

  • Prairie Meadows – $3.41 million
  • Ameristar – $1.37 million
  • Isle Waterloo – $916,385
  • Isle Bettendorf – $645,040
  • Riverside – $494,348
  • Horseshoe – $441,274
  • Rhythm City – $350,442
  • Lakeside – $282,054
  • Harrah’s – $199,476
  • Catfish Bend – $142,746
  • Diamond Jo Worth – $140,953
  • Q Casino – $120,610
  • Grand Falls – $66,350

Just as almost half of the state’s total handle was taken in at the Ameristar and Prairie Meadows, more than half of the action was the type that required Iowans to physically place their wagers at betting windows or on-site kiosks.

Online action holds its own despite obstacles

Until 2021, residents of and visitors to the Hawkeye State who wish to bet on sports online have to register in person to do so. In addition, not all 13 of the licensees had their online components up and running during August.

Despite that, handle from online wagers during the last two weeks of August was still respectable in terms of its comparison to action at retail books. Handle on wagers taken in person was $4.9 million, while online action amounted to $3.68 million.

As more of Iowa’s books get their online components live, that breakdown is sure to not only pull even but swing the other way. Only five of the 13 operators had their mobile books going before September dawned.

Speaking of September, that’s when we’re likely to get a much better idea of the impact of wagering on sports in the Hawkeye State.

How 2019 could be a September to remember

On top of the fact that it’s football season and sports betting is still a new activity in the Hawkeye State, the ninth month of the year will boast new options. Iowa residents and visitors are sure to take advantage.

Two new retail sportsbook locations, the Hard Rock and WinnaVegas, will be available soon. Both casinos plan to launch their physical books in September.

Although official announcements are rarer, it’s likely more of the existing books whose mobile components aren’t yet live will change that during the month. That should increase handle in September as well.

The fact that there are college football and NFL games ongoing, the uptick in places to put a wager down and the fact that betting on sports seems to be the latest thing all the cool kids in the Hawkeye State are doing should combine to produce a great harvest for Iowa sportsbooks. The small sample from August points toward that.

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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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