Betting Totals At Iowa Sportsbooks See 20% Decline In July

Posted By Russ Mitchell on August 6, 2021

Olympic games betting on the other side of the world and an NBA champion from around the corner couldn’t rescue Iowa’s sports betting totals in July.

Numbers released by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) on Friday said that the state collected $88,936,377 in wagering handle for the month.

July’s handle was down about 20% from the $111.2 million wagering handle in June. March 2021 remains the state’s best month ever with $161.4 million in handle.

July is typically the slowest month of the year for sports bets. The Tokyo games and a later-than-normal NBA Finals couldn’t snap Iowa out a three-month streak of wagering declines, however.

The month certainly had betting opportunities. The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns in six games to claim its first crown since 1971. Two games in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals also gave Iowa sportsbook customers a chance to place wagers in the month of July.

Baseball’s all-star break cut into day-to-day baseball wagering at the start of the month, but Iowa customers could still place bets on the All-Star Game itself and the Home Run Derby in Denver. Milwaukee’s Brewers and the Chicago White Sox also are on pace to win their divisions.

IRGC administrator Brian Ohorilko knew July totals couldn’t match months featuring the Super Bowl or March Madness.

“In auditing the numbers, we did expect a decline — we didn’t know how much decline — from the popular months, which would be (ones with) football and basketball. And, we did see that. But, revenue did seem to hold fairly steady over the summer. I think it’s reasonable to expect that when football season kicks off here soon, with even some exhibition games yet this month, we’ll start to see increases in the overall handle.”

Olympics add to July numbers

The Tokyo Olympics were both a challenge and an opportunity for Iowa sports betting operators and customers. Iowa introduced legal sports betting in August 2019, so Olympic wagering is new to the state.

Tokyo is 22 hours ahead of Iowa and the time zone difference may have capped Iowa’s betting volume a bit. Ohorilko said:

“I have heard from a few operators that wagering on the Olympics was maybe not as high as what some people had originally thought. Of course, we don’t really have any numbers to compare to, with respect to prior Olympics.”

The IRGC administrator emphasized that his information was anecdotal. Iowa sports operators generally don’t report event-based waging numbers to the commission.

“But some of the things that I’m hearing is: With the time difference, possibly some customers aren’t thinking of a particular sporting event. Many of these events are taking place in the middle of the night so we’re not seeing a lot of in-game wagering. And the lines need to be published early and people are maybe having to get in earlier than what they’re used to.”

Wagering in Iowa is limited to team sports. That’s unless the event consists of all athletes who are above the age of 18 as well. Some operators told Ohorilko that may have dampened betting on some popular sports like track and swimming.

FY22 began in July and the IRGC staff began the new budget year with information to help track Iowa’s competitive sportsbook market.

New report IDs Caesars as state’s sports betting leader

In the past, PlayIA used the Iowa’s sportsbook-casino relationships to identify the state’s likely leaders each month. Casinos can carry up to three individually branded sportsbooks, however. That made projections among popular sportsbooks like Caesars, BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel more difficult.

LicenseeOnline Brand(s)HandleOnline HandleRetail HandleRevenueTaxes (6.75%)
Prairie MeadowsWilliam Hill$13,027,827$12,629,348$398,480$1,038,614$47,136
Diamond Jo DubuqueFanDuel$12,679,974$12,082,457$597,517$1,475,557$99,600
Wild Rose JeffersonDraftKings | BetRivers$11,384,105$11,333,589$50,516$1,202,849$81,192
Isle WaterlooWilliam Hill$10,766,878$10,656,836$110,042$103,346$4,647
Diamond Jo WorthBetMGM$8,755,270$6,331,247$2,424,023$943,425$63,681
Wild Rose ClintonDraftKings | BetRivers$8,048,546$7,972,014$76,532$749,899$50,618
Wild Rose EmmetsburgDraftKings$5,762,446$5,712,983$49,464$680,659$45,944
Ameristar Council BluffstheScore$4,457,830$1,137,475$3,320,355$310,511$20,959
Horseshoe Council BluffsWilliam Hill$4,291,080$2,951,085$1,339,995$155,333$5,620
Catfish BendPointsBet$2,454,414$2,307,541$146,874$323,259$21,820
Isle BettendorfWilliam Hill$1,624,706$1,309,238$315,468$115,200$0
LakesideWilliam Hill$1,386,896$1,159,745$227,151$152,410$8,390
RiversideElite$1,255,312$961,969$293,343$106,591$7,195
Grand FallsBetfred | Bally Bet$1,101,863$522,874$578,989$111,577$7,531
Hard RockHard Rock$879,040$416,720$462,320$98,779$6,668
Harrah's Council BluffsWilliam Hill | Unibet$638,621$506,657$131,964$45,345$2,132
Rhythm CityElite$572,481$248,851$323,630$65,216$4,402
Q CasinoQ Sportsbook$458,612$222,716$235,896$28,781$1,943
Total$89,545,900$78,463,342$11,082,558$7,707,349$479,479

Here are more specific online sports betting numbers, which were included in the IRGC July report. Online betting accounted for 87.6% of all sports betting in the month:

  • Caesars: $28.7 million for 36.8% of the online handle
  • DraftKings: $23.5 million for 30.1% of the online handle
  • FanDuel: $12.1 million for 15.5% of the online handle
  • BetMGM: $6.3 million for 8.1% of the online handle
  • PointsBet $2.3 million for 3% of the online handle

The remaining seven online sportsbooks combined for just under $5.1 million and a combined 6.5% of the online handle in July:

  • BetRivers: $1.6 million
  • Elite Sportsbook: $1.2 million
  • theScore: $1.1 million
  • Betfred: $456,939
  • Hard Rock Sportsbook: $416,720
  • Q Sportsbook: $222,716
  • Bally Bet: $65,935

Ohorilko explained the past process:

  • Each casino had to establish a relationship with a sponsoring organization in its region. The sponsor then manages the local nonprofit proceeds associated with casino gambling.
  • Iowa statute requires each online sports company to have a relationship with a casino.

“It seemed to make sense, when we initially launched sports betting, to tie these online sports companies to the casino. A portion of that casino revenue then is distributed to the local nonprofits.”

“There was some interest specific to the type of company — or which company was was generating more revenue for each casino,” Ohorilko continued. “It was data that we collected. And so something that seemed to make sense — to start reporting that out as well.”

Fall may usher in ‘over a dozen’ sportsbooks

The IRGC staff may soon need more columns for its monthly spreadsheet.

Ohorilko isn’t fully involved as sportsbooks navigate the technical aspects of licensing in Iowa. But, email traffic can be a hint as sportsbooks prepare to go live.

“A lot of times we’ll get a flurry and then they may stop to have to work on something or focus in another area. But usually, when I see a lot of correspondence back-and-forth between our team and those companies, that means that company is really trying to dot I’s and cross T’s.”

Technology has to be lab-tested. Sportsbooks may then use some testing certification results to go live in multiple states.

“It really is kind of dependent, in many cases on the scheduling plans for the operators. But, but nothing has really changed with respect to: We still have over a dozen companies that we think will be pushing here yet this month or early fall.”

For July 2021, the casinos reported $7,097,826 in sports wagering net receipts, a decrease of 15.7% from the $8,424,699 in June. The state collected $479,479 in taxes for the month.

Photo by David J. Phillip / AP
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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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