More Ways To Bet On March Madness: Iowa Approves Pool Betting In Time For Tourney

Written By Russ Mitchell on March 5, 2021
march madness bracket betting

March Madness got a little more interesting Thursday when the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission approved pool betting for sportsbooks in Iowa.

IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko expects a fairly smooth implementation for the new sportsbook offering, saying “it will be ready for this year’s tournament,” and added:

“The individual sports companies would need to submit their particular contest — or rules for those contests — to the Racing and Gaming Commission staff. That … review’s a typically fairly smooth, fairly quick process. So, there really is no reason to think that this won’t be taken care of prior to the NCAA Tournament.”

DraftKings made the IRGR request, but Thursday’s commission approval applies to any Iowa sportsbook that wants to host pool betting.

What is a betting pool?

If you’ve ever entered a March Madness bracket contest at your workplace (for entertainment purposes only), you get the general idea of a betting pool. There’s a set entry fee and a set amount to win.

As Ohorilko explains:

“It’s different than a traditional sports bet, where you’re competing against the house. It could be a contest … based on the results of certain games in the form of a bracket. It could just simply be a pick ’em (format) — for example during bowl season for football.”

Essentially, bettors place their picks against picks from fellow bettors who pay to enter the same pool. Some are winner-take-all. Other sportsbooks may distribute first, second and third places among pool participants. Casinos guarantee the prize pool and the sportsbook’s rules for the contest have to be approved by Ohorilko’s staff. He said:

“In Iowa, really, the offerings are fairly standard offerings — moneylines, points spreads, future bets, totals — more common types of sports wagers. … We did get a request from DraftKings to permit pools wagering and  presumably, that’s because we’re getting close to the NCAA basketball tournament.

“Pools — brackets — are very popular among among people at this time of year. That request was approved by the Commission subject to individual events still being reviewed by commission staff. So that will be something that will be new to Iowans at least on the sports wagering platform. I think a lot of customers routinely and every year have completed brackets. But as far as what might be offered over a sports wagering platform, that’s something that was authorized (Thursday).”

Sportsbooks typically keep anywhere from 5% to 15% of the pool money, according to the administrator. The sportsbooks distribute the rest to its winners, based on the pre-approved contest rules.

No new skin applications

Iowa’s casinos didn’t submit any sportsbook contracts for new skins at the commission’s March meeting. The commissioners renewed sports wagering licenses for the 17 non-racetrack casinos in Iowa, however. The licenses cover both casino operations and sports wagering as part of an annual process.

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Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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