Return Of Hawkeye Football Carries Iowa Sportsbooks To Another Record Month

Posted on November 9, 2020 - Last Updated on November 10, 2020

Iowa’s record-breaking sports betting handle in September didn’t remain as the new gold standard for long. October sportsbook handle in the Hawkeye State topped $81.9 million, a new record for Iowa sports betting.

While the return of Big Ten football likely played a part, the 2020 World Series probably did the same. For whatever reason, it was an excellent month to be a sportsbook in Iowa.

October sportsbook handle tops all previous contenders

Total handle in Iowa was up about 11.7% month over month and 43.7% year over year. Iowans should note, however, that October 2019 featured only seven live operators in IA whereas there are now 18 sportsbooks and running.

In terms of revenue, it was a fantastic month. IA sportsbooks netted over $9.09 million, an uptick of around 43.3%, when compared to last month. That’s also a new record, shattering the previous high of almost $5.66 million in October 2019.

The numbers revealed William Hill as the continuously dominant operator in the Hawkeye State. That brand accounted for $26.9 million, or about 52.8% of online handle.

Another trend that held was IA bettors’ love of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. Retail handle accounted for 30.6% of this month’s total, up slightly from last month.

The monthly reports from Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission don’t break down handle by sport, so it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much of an impact the 2020 Fall Classic and the Iowa Hawkeyes returning to the gridiron had on the market.

It’s also hard to tell if the market for legal sports betting has reached its maturity. Significant changes continue to occur, with one big shift expected soon.

CasinoHandleOnline HandleRetail HandleRevenueTaxes (6.75%)
Total$81,902,416.35$56,886,206.96$25,016,209.39$9,098,995.31$612,967.17
Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino$19,820,384.78$18,391,561.18$1,428,437.85$2,337,248.79$157,764.29
Diamond Jo - Worth$8,312,491.73$2,889,964.73$5,422,527.00$790,877.23$53,384.21
Wild Rose - Jefferson$8,187,998.12$8,029,679.24$158,318.88$877,082.23$59,203.05
Riverside Casino and Golf Resort$6,105,396.18$5,146,733.37$958,662.81$649,539.94$43,843.95
Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo$6,036,351.22$5,411,465.97$624,885.25$611,657.94 $41,286.91
Ameristar II$5,614,649.58$0.00$5,614,649.58 $848,087.12$57,245.88
Diamond Jo - Dubuque$5,282,934.92$4,292,469.42$990,465.50$609,399.77$41,134.48
Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs $4,245,663.46$284,829.38$3,960,834.08$384,595.00$25,960.16
Wild Rose - Clinton$2,696,555.86$2,518,464.67$178,091.19$297,107.88$18,839.78
Hard Rock Casino$2,313,31.31$1,321,855.94$991,475.37$267,123.63$18,030.85
Isle of Capri - Bettendorf$2,283,653.60$1,752,387.60$531,266.00$318,170.84$21,476.53
Grand Falls Casino$2,097,141.48$930,636.88$1,166,504.60$340,140.04$22,959.45
Q Casino$2,091,881.14$1,140,481.44$951,399.70$51,416.79$3,470.63
Lakeside Casino$1,917,393.70 $1,351,667.23$565,726.47$184,611.4$13,461.27
Catfish Bend Casino$1,688,983.13 $1,134,630.88$554,325.25$179,746.51$12,132.89
Rhythm City Casino$1,577,313.67$1,019,117.90$558,195.77$228,308.16$15,410.80
Wild Rose - Emmetsburg$1,380,333.63$1,261,262.68$119,070.95$107,225.93$7,237.75
Harrah's Council Bluffs Casino & Hotel$249,958.84$8,998.45$240,960.39$16,656.08$1,124.29
Casino Queen - Marquette$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00

Why it’s hard to tell if this is normal for Iowa or not

While October’s total handle set a new record, the month-over-month growth did slow considerably. From August to September, handle grew by over 18%.

The numbers may have normalized for market share, however. In September, the launch of Betfred and FanDuel ate into William Hill’s lead, which rebounded a little in October.

It’s worth watching how PointsBet‘s share performs this month, as it just launched its Android and iOS app in Iowa. That leads to the biggest oncoming shift in this market.

The final day for in-person registration to wager online is Dec. 31. With the advent of 2021, IA bettors will be able to register new accounts for every operator in the state completely online.

Iowans should expect to see a bombardment of messaging from those operators to that effect. However, it’s hard to tell whether that will eat into the percentage of handle that retail books still enjoy.

In sports betting, as with most other things, people are creatures of habit. Brick-and-mortar wagering may have entrenched itself firmly enough in IA to offset the new convenience of remote registration.

The best hope for online wagering’s growth in the Hawkeye State might be to attract new bettors instead of converting retail gamblers. January will start to tell whether those efforts will prove successful.

October 2020 is a new benchmark of success for sportsbooks in IA. With online registration on the horizon, those operators hope these new highs won’t stand long.

Photo by AP Photo / Charlie Neibergall
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. 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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