Iowa is home to 22 casinos, a state-run lottery and pari-mutuel wagering at two horse racetracks and greyhound parks. The state legalized sports betting in May 2019, going live with both retail and online and mobile sports betting in August 2019.
What Iowa does not have is legal, regulated online poker.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t play online poker in Iowa on sites that operate under US sweepstakes laws.
In 2012, the Iowa Senate approved a bill legalizing online poker, but it died in the House. Another online poker bill died at the committee level in 2013. In 2014, Iowa lawmakers were monitoring legal online poker in New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada, to see what worked and if it could work in Iowa.
The plan was to consider another online poker bill in 2015, but that didn’t happen. In fact, that plan to consider online poker legislation in the future was the last word on the subject from the Iowa Legislature.
It may have been almost a decade since online poker legislation had any traction in the legislature, but the issue is not completely dead. In fact, the launch of legal online sports betting in Iowa may breathe new life into it.
Hope lies in the possibility that legislators and stakeholders will see the new revenue that sports betting generates and reconsider allowing real money Iowa online poker sites.
In the meantime, you can still play online poker in Iowa on sites that operate under US sweepstakes laws. Global Poker is one such sweepstakes poker site.
You can play what amounts to real money online poker tournaments and ring games on Global Poker, thanks to the sweepstakes model the site employs. This model dictates that Global operates as a sweepstakes contest rather than a cash poker site.
Global Poker accomplishes this by using two types of virtual currency. You can play with Gold Coins, but this currency has no real cash value. You can also play with Sweeps Coins. Global Poker will give these to you for free when you purchase Gold Coins. You can also win them on social media or write a request for Sweeps Coins to the Global Poker office.
The important point is that you can’t buy these Sweeps Coins, which is how Global Poker is able to operate in Iowa under sweepstakes law. You can use Sweeps Coins to buy into Global Poker tournaments and ring games, and you can redeem any Sweeps Coins you win for cash prizes.
When you sign up as a new account holder, Global Poker will give you a $20 Gold Coin package, including 20 Sweeps Coins, for free. Additionally, as a new customer, you can buy a $40 value package for $20. The package includes 200,000 Gold Coins and comes with 40 free Sweeps Coins.
There are other online poker options in Iowa.
You can download several Android and iOS apps that let you play online poker for free. Plus, many of the world’s most popular online poker operators let you download their software and play with play money.
You don’t have to risk anything, but as we all know, no risk likely means no reward. Free-to-play apps and play money online poker can be a lot of fun, but the fact is you’ll never win anything.
Free-to-play poker can also help you learn how to play the game. But as you’ll quickly find out, with no stakes, the games feature no real strategy. Players hardly ever fold, and luck becomes a much bigger factor than skill.
Sweepstakes sites, such as Global Poker, operate under sweepstakes laws to ensure no purchase is necessary. That means you can play online poker on Global Poker in ring games and tournaments where you stand to win Sweeps Coins that you can turn into real cash prizes.
Global Poker runs a lot of online poker tournaments. If there isn’t a new one starting, there likely will be in five or 10 minutes. The site has freerolls where you can win free Sweeps Coins and daily and weekly events with guaranteed Sweeps Coin prize pools.
The biggest of the bunch is the Sunday Scrimmage, a weekly hold’em tournament featuring a prize pool of 50,000 Sweeps Coins.
The most popular tournament formats are all there. Plus, you’ll find seasonal tournament series where trophies and millions in guaranteed Sweeps Coin prize pools are up for grabs. This includes Global’s annual GOAT series, Summer Series and Bounty Series, with past guaranteed prize pools of up to 1.1 million in Sweeps Coins.
While you may see advertisements online for offshore online poker sites in Iowa, you should be aware that your money isn’t safe with these operators. These sites aren’t regulated under federal laws, and could close overnight, taking your money with them. Should that ever happen, you’ll have no legal recourse.
Regulation guarantees that your money is protected by state and federal laws. State regulation would make a significant difference for online poker players in Iowa. Until it comes, you’re much better off playing at a site, such as Global Poker, which operate under recognized US laws.
Iowa has legal live poker at licensed commercial and tribal casinos. All told, there are some 10 poker rooms offering cash games and tournaments across the state.
State law is clear in making it illegal for these casinos to run online poker games for real money within the state. In addition, Iowa outlaws betting or wagering on anything not specifically in accordance with the state gambling regulations that govern casinos and other gambling operations.
There was hope that legal online poker would come when the Iowa Senate passed an online poker bill in 2012, but that’s as far as that bill went.
Note: The following Iowa poker rooms may be closed or have limited hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cash games and tournaments on five tables open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Cash games and tournaments on seven tables open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Cash games and tournaments on eight tables open 24 hours.
Cash games and tournaments on 18 tables open 24 hours. The largest poker room in the state.
Cash games and tournaments on 10 tables open 24 hours.
Cash games and tournaments on 11 tables open 24 hours.
Cash games and tournaments on four tables open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Cash games and tournaments on 10 tables open 24 hours. No poker on Mondays.
This casino located along the Iowa-Illinois state line hosts cash games and tournaments on six tables open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Any hope for legal, real money online poker in Iowa likely depends on sports betting revenue in the state. Iowa recently launched legal online sports betting, and if the resulting revenue and taxes whet lawmakers’ appetites, they could go searching for more online gambling revenue.
Online poker could be a palatable next step for the evolution of online gambling across the state.
There is a danger that if sports betting revenue is too good, lawmakers won’t need to search for additional revenue sources, but the chances of that happening seem slim.
There’s also a danger online poker could be ignored because it hasn’t generated much in the way of revenue or tax revenue in the states that have legalized and regulated it. However, that seems unlikely in a state that already has legal casinos and poker rooms and isn’t in the habit of ignoring even the smallest sources of tax revenue.
In the meantime, Global Poker still presents a viable option for online poker players in Iowa and it isn’t going anywhere.