As Temps Rise, May Sports Betting Handle Cools Slightly In Iowa

Posted By Russ Mitchell on June 10, 2021

May started with the Kentucky Derby and ended with the Indianapolis 500, but those sporting events don’t carry the betting pop of March Madness or the Super Bowl.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) released its May sports wagering report on Thursday. The state collected $114,882,963  in handle for a month that included Grand Slam tennis and golf’s second major as well. Baseball betting is likely fueling wagering with the Chicago Cubs and White Sox leading in their divisions.

April saw $118,355,535 in handle by comparison. IRGC administrator Brian Ohorilko anticipates lower totals from Iowa sportsbooks as the summer progresses:

“I don’t believe anyone anticipates seeing anything close to what we saw in January and February or March. This is just historically kind of a low-volume season right now. Numbers, hopefully, may be steady from what they were last month. But, we really don’t have anything to really use as a point of reference, just due to everything that happened last year.”

May’s handle was down 2.9% from last month. As Ohorilko said, different sports will generate different betting traffic.

For May 2021, the casinos reported $6,133,477 in sports wagering net receipts. The state collected $414,175 in taxes for the month.

Iowa sportsbooks managed a pandemic-stunted $6.98 million in handle for the same month a year ago. Ohorilko said the 2021 revenue numbers will be a better benchmark for the industry when the same months come around a year from now:

“I think the other thing we’ll be monitoring is, what the impact of the Olympic events will be. Again, summer historically is a very low-volume type of season for sports betting. …That is something that will happen this summer, that would not normally occur. So it’ll be kind of interesting to see how that may impact numbers.”

Iowa sports betting numbers for May 2021

LicenseeOnline Brand(s)HandleOnline HandleRetail HandleRevenueTaxes (6.75%)
Catfish BendPointsBet$3,198,164.72$2,955,550.37$242,614.35$284,426.09$19,198.76
Diamond Jo - DubuqueFanDuel$16,375,549.41$15,943,372.91$432,176.50$1,527,185.41$103,085.02
Isle - WaterlooWilliam Hill$15,378,848.84$15,026,791.81$352,057.03$200,964.54$13,565.11
Wild Rose - JeffersonDraftKings | BetRivers$15,335,401.00$15,265,248.21$70,152.79$659,739.04$44,532.39
Prairie MeadowsWilliam Hill$13,484,391.77$12,873,118.32$611,273.45$514,530.97$34,730.84
Diamond Jo - WorthBetMGM$11,240,967.65$8,400,760.65$2,840,207.00$982,824.11$66,340.63
Wild Rose - ClintonDraftKings | BetRivers$10,277,861.41$10,152,506.05$125,355.36$336,623.46$22,722.08
Wild Rose - EmmetsburgDraftKings$8,180,575.94$8,059,567.26$121,008.68$396,005.45$26,730.37
HorseshoeWilliam Hill$4,271,301.42$2,359,683.35$1,911,618.07$90,147.36$6,084.95
Isle - BettendorfWilliam Hill$2,142,554.49$1,906,850.65$235,703.84$112,964.85$7,625.13
Rhythm CityElite$1,782,617.50$1,269,995.92$512,621.58$126,473.98$8,536.99
LakesideWilliam Hill$1,490,330.61$1,322,626.91$167,703.70$92,783.64$6,262.90
Hard RockHard Rock$1,359,295.04$615,311.15$743,983.8976,287.89$5,149.43
Grand FallsBetfred$1,355,179.60$530,671.95$824,507.65$175,549.92$11,849.62
Q CasinoQ Sportsbook$873,046.90$315,245.15$557,801.75$-2,448.81$0
Harrah'sWilliam Hill$798,741.90$627,526.15$171,215.75$53,913.64$3,639.17

Bettors placed 87% of their sports wagering dollars online or through mobile devices.

William Hill back on top

The monthly report includes totals from the casinos. Since Iowa casinos can carry three distinct sports betting brands, it’s becoming harder to identify a sportsbook leader in the state.

Here’s what we know from the May totals, which shows William Hill-affiliated casinos ahead of DraftKings- and BetRivers-affiliated casinos:

  • William Hill: $37,566,169.03
  • BetRivers/DraftKings: $33,793,838.35
  • FanDuel/BetMGM: $27,616.517.05

*BetRivers and DraftKings both operate under the Wild Rose casinos’ licenses in Iowa.

*FanDuel/BetMGM operate under the Diamond Jo casinos’ licenses.

Will new sportsbooks shuffle leaders again?

As parents ship their kids off to college, new sports betting operators in Iowa may have some unpacking to do as well. The state could see double-digit sportsbooks go live at the end of the summer.

NFL fall kickoffs will mark the first time Iowa bettors have both remote registration and fully-realized seasons on the gridiron.

Ohorilko sees benefits to early summer launches, which would troubleshoot ahead of online betting traffic increases, but:

“Most — if not all — of the companies that do this kind of work are experienced operators. We’re typically not the first state that these companies are licensed in. Therefore, they’ve had opportunities to conduct their business in other states. When they come into the state, they are a fairly well-oiled machine. They just really need to get up to speed with the regs that are specific to Iowa.

“It’s no different than launching in any state, frankly. Really, the ideal time is going to be just prior to football season and taking advantage of the popularity of college football.”

Iowa books could accept the state’s first legal sports wagers on Aug. 15, 2019, but customers had to visit casinos to register at first. Starting in January 2021, customers could register and bet online or with a mobile device. Wagers simply have to be placed within Iowa’s state lines.

Division-leading runs by the Cubs and White Sox could continue to help summer betting in Iowa. The neighboring Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals have winning records. The College World Series in nearby Omaha, NE, could boost June numbers as well.

Photo by Gregory Bull / 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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