An announcement from PlayUp on Tuesday reminded us of something we already knew. It’s going to be a busy summer for sportsbook launches in Iowa.
In the statement from Las Vegas, PlayUp said that Iowa is part of three market-access deals with Caesars Entertainment.
Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission administrator Brian Ohorilko said PlayUp would enter Iowa through the Caesars-affiliated casino Horseshoe Council Bluffs. The IRGC approved PlayUp’s contract in April.
Ohorilko said Horseshoe liked having other PlayUp offerings on hand if the state eventually legalizes online casino gameplay, including poker:
“I know the company does some business in online poker and online gambling. As you know, those things aren’t legal here in Iowa. But, it’s a partner that, for Caesars, has the ability to do things other than sports.”
PlayUp’s announcement covers sports betting in Iowa and Indiana for now. It will also enter New Jersey’s online casino market to round out its US expansion. The operator launched in Colorado this year.
PlayUp plans to be up-and-running soon
Kevin M. Smith is the senior vice president of marketing at PlayUp.
He said the company plans to have the PlayUp Sportsbook go live in Iowa “as soon as possible and is hopeful that it will happen before football season kicks off in earnest — late August, early September.”
“We know it’s a very competitive space. And we’re finding that in almost every state we go into. For us, it’s really about our brand DNA — being a digital-only brand. We feel that gives us a competitive advantage over some of the operators that have the overhead of bricks-and-mortar, and the like. And we’ve also feel like we have a very good blueprint from our success in Australia as an operator there.”
PlayUp currently operates in the US, Australia, New Zealand and India. The sportsbook said it hosts some of the world’s largest daily fantasy sports prize pools in addition to odds-based sports wagers.
“It’s not that we won’t have aggressive bonus bets and promotional offers, especially when we are first going live. Really, we want to set ourselves apart by really giving people a really good user experience, being very transparent with our betting limits, and essentially welcoming all bettors. And we were able to do that because we have internal risk management from the trading side. We’re not outsourcing that, so we’re much more nimble.”
Iowa had appealing growth potential
PlayUp USA CEO Laila Mintas said Iowa, Indiana and New Jersey “are the next phase of our growth in the US.”
The states reflect a market of nearly $500 million, according to the executive. The count includes:
- Iowa’s $118 million sports wagering handle in April
- Indiana’s $236 million in April
- New Jersey’s $113 million online gaming handle in March
Mintas expects the additions to place PlayUp among the top 15% of US operators that have access in six or more states. She said:
“We are striving to live out our brand motto of ‘Your Best Bet’ with our product portfolio and we are excited for what lies ahead in terms of getting our product in front of as many Americans as possible through the growing regulated market.”
That includes smaller sports betting states near Iowa. Smith said Nebraska and South Dakota (Deadwood) are expansion opportunities. Those states aren’t as operator-friendly, however:
“It does not rule them out. As I said earlier, we have a very aggressive and strategic growth plan. And part of that is to be live in as many states as possible, including those that that might be harder to get into from a barrier-of-entry standpoint. That might also represent smaller market size. Obviously, South Dakota is not going to be anything like, a New Jersey would be. But that doesn’t mean we want to we don’t want to be in there.”
PlayUp works with Iowa regulators
Iowa code calls for an initial $45,000 licensing fee each time an operator wants to launch its sportsbook in the state. If Iowa’s 19 casinos all chose to carry three distinct sportsbook brands, bettors would have 57 different options.
Ohorilko previously said that he doesn’t think Iowa will reach full capacity:
“There are a number of other companies still interested in entering the market. … Most people in the industry think there still is room. Once we get through the fall of ’21, we’ll see the market settle for a while.”
Once the IRGC receives an application, the approval process takes “anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.” The commission can grant temporary licenses while the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation completes background checks on stakeholders.