With Proliferation Of Online Sports Betting In Iowa, Online Casino, Online Poker Seem Inevitable

Written By Derek Helling on December 21, 2020 - Last Updated on December 13, 2022

The field of online sports betting in Iowa is getting crowded, which could be a precursor to further gambling expansion in the Hawkeye State. Iowa online casinos could happen sooner than initially expected.

The expiration of the state’s in-person registration requirement for online sports betting accounts will undoubtedly push Iowa’s gambling market out of its infancy. Maturing the market will require more legislative action, however.

Why Iowa online casinos and online poker are next

It’s all about a greater return on gambling companies’ investments. Online platforms for online poker, slots and table games, such as baccarat, can be far more lucrative than sports betting.

There are a few reasons for that. First off, online casinos reach a broader audience than sportsbooks. Additionally, there’s no research yet that suggests online casino products cannibalize sports betting platforms.

Also, online gaming hits two significant notes with consumers: convenience and fresh content. Gaming software companies constantly produce new titles for operators, which players can access on their mobile devices.

According to Wes Ehrecke, the president and CEO of the Iowa Casino Association, online gaming would bring retail casinos some sustainability during pandemic times.

In a market that’s wisely regulated, online gambling doesn’t cannibalize brick-and-mortar casinos, either. That’s where the state government could step in.

Why Iowa might eventually look to more regulated gaming

Just like for gambling companies, it’s all about the money. Collecting license fees and revenue taxes on online casino and online poker offerings would mean a new income source for the state.

While the state budget in IA is relatively good in comparison to others in the Union, lost income taxes contributed to a 25% drop in total revenues for the state coffers from March to May 2020. With a GOP-trifecta (both chambers of the legislature, plus the governor’s office) in Des Moines hesitant to hike taxes elsewhere, online gambling could be a path to new revenue.

Just the advent of online registration for sports betting should help in that regard. Operators 888 and Vigtory are all looking to launch in the Iowa soon. BetRivers soft-launched in November.

It’s difficult to tell exactly how much online poker and gambling would be worth in IA right now. After a few months of sports betting with online registration, it will be easier to gauge.

Like their predecessors in IA, those operators already operate online casino and poker games in other jurisdictions that allow for it. There’s little doubt they would do the same in IA if allowable.

If approved, operators could be ready quickly

In 2019, 888 Holdings’ head of commercial development Yaniv Sherman said that online poker would be the “next logical thing.”

BetRivers (under the name SugarHouse), 888, DraftKings and FanDuel all offer online gaming in New Jersey. Vigtory plans to do the same at some point. FanDuel’s parent company, Flutter, owns the popular online poker platform PokerStars.

There, the regulatory framework resembles what IA will soon offer for sports betting. The state issues licenses to land-based gambling facilities like casinos and racetracks.

Those properties then partner with operators for online gaming. With a similar regulatory structure, IA casinos could expand their offerings and pull in revenues from Iowans who may never step foot on their properties.

If the state moves quickly on this, it could pull in action across state borders as well. While Illinois offers legal online sports betting and Missouri is looking to legalize in 2021, only the Hawkeye State among its neighbors would feature legal online poker, slots and table games.

Companies entering the state for legal sports betting are likely looking for much more. Sooner rather than later, the state may open the doors for a full suite of online gambling products.

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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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