If Iowa Approves Online Casino, PointsBet And DraftKings Want Exclusives

Posted By Russ Mitchell on September 3, 2021

Iowa isn’t on the list of the six states that allow online casino or online poker games — yet.

But, if the Iowa Legislature makes that move in 2022 or beyond, at least two major gaming operators will have Iowa online casino connections in place: PointsBet and DraftKings.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) approved the agreements at its meeting in Riverside on Aug. 26.

PointsBet Iowa LLC amended its contract with Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington, according to IRGC administrator Brian Ohorilko.

“It just included rights for PointsBet to be the exclusive provider for online gaming in the event that were ever to be legal in the state of Iowa.”

Crown IA Gaming — the company supporting DraftKings Sportsbook in Iowa — worked out an agreement with Wild Rose. Wild Rose has casinos in Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson.

“It’s a very similar situation to what we saw with PointsBet and Catfish. There were some provisions added that would allow for DraftKings to be a provider of online (casino) gaming, if that was ever something that was authorized in the state.”

Will online casino gaming come to Iowa?

The Iowa General Assembly returns to Des Moines from Jan. 10 to April 19 (or longer if needed) for the 2022 legislative session.

Sometime within that window, Iowa Gaming Association (IGA) president Wes Ehrecke hopes the Iowa Legislature will take up expansions and reforms on behalf of the casinos he represents.

Online casino and online poker betting would be a significant revenue source for Iowa.

The six states that offer such gaming verticals are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware and Nevada.

Ehrecke said only eight of Iowa’s 12 gaming companies would like to see legislation introduced, however:

“There’s four gaming companies that aren’t there at this time. But, things evolve, discussion is ongoing — for just what the language looks like and what it would entail.”

Ehrecke compares the online gaming efforts to 2019 discussions about sports betting in Iowa. He feels the give-and-take led to “one of the best bills passed in the country.”

In terms of support from the gaming companies, Ehrecke said:

“Certainly, I’d like to see more than two-thirds. We’d really try to get to more than that. I think that’s part of the discussion — what some of the concerns are. And are there opportunities for those to be met and answered? If yes, terrific. If not, then you just have to continue with what that might mean and look like.”

Ehrecke anticipates some companies may try to get online casino gaming introduced during the legislative session:

“I’m just going to indicate that there’s large support for it but there’s also a third of the industry right now — the gaming companies — that are not in favor at this time. … I suspect that this could change in variety of ways as we get into the session. That was just a snapshot in time of where the industry is at.”

What policy efforts are more likely?

Iowa may or may not be ready for online poker in 2022, but some new online gaming options might be possible. Ehrecke said his members hope to get a vote on legislation introduced last session.

It would:

  • Legalize esports at the college, pro and international level.
  • Allow Player of the Year bets, like the Heisman Trophy winner or Super Bowl MVP.
  • Authorize sportsbooks to accept pro sports draft pick bets.

“Quite frankly, we thought we had it as a part of what we passed with the sports wagering two years ago. It wasn’t as clear as what could or should be. So the Racing and Gaming Commission advised that we go back to the legislature to get that resolved.”

The IGA hopes lawmakers reform parts of the state’s debt offset program as well. Iowa casino customers who won $1,200 or more may be familiar with the policy.

The state requires casinos to cross-check big payouts with a database for unpaid state debts. Iowa law directs casinos to reroute windfalls to the state if the customer has unpaid court obligations, delinquent taxes or child support. The state can fine casinos if they fail to redirect the winnings.

Ehrecke said:

“If there are errors made with that, we uncover those. It’s a matter of removing the liability. We’ve collected $49 million in 10 years for the state.… If there’s an error made, we’ll get the dollars that were a part of that jackpot.”

The gaming industry plans to ask lawmaker to review reforms and funding for casino security as well.

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Russ Mitchell

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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