Iowa Sports Betting FAQ

playia sports betting faq

Legal sports betting is available in Iowa, and the good news is that the industry is expanding. All the best-known sportsbooks are available in the state, and there is room for more. As more people participate in online sports betting in Iowa, they’re bound to have some questions.

New and experienced bettors may wonder about the specific laws regarding wagering on sporting events in Iowa. We’re here to help with precisely those situations here at PlayIA. No matter what your inquiry is, you should find the answer here.

Can I legally bet on sports in Iowa?

Yes, as long as you’re eligible and using a licensed book, it’s perfectly legal. Iowa legalized sports betting with the passage of bill SF 617 in May 2019. The first licensed operators then went live on Aug. 15, 2019. Not all of them went live online at that time, however.

Since then, 18 out of 19 licensees have started taking bets. Additionally, most of them have a sports betting app or website. So, as long as you’re placing your bet with a book that has a license from the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission (IRGC), you’re good to go.

How old do I need to be to gamble online in Iowa?

In Iowa, you must be at least 21 years of age to gamble. That applies whether you’re betting at the casino or the online sportsbook. Before you can wager, you have to set up an account with the sportsbook of your choice. In that process, the sportsbook will verify your age.

Usually, that process is quick and smooth. If there are any snags, however, you may have to provide additional documentation. That usually includes your valid, government-issued photo ID card.

Are online sportsbooks safe?

Yes, as long as you’re betting at a sportsbook within the regulated market. The sportsbook must adhere to a set of protocols to receive that license, including protecting your information, and keeping your funds safe and separate from business funds.

Using an illegal sportsbook assumes a tremendous amount of risk. There are no governing bodies regulating them, so there’s nothing to stop them from selling your private information, keeping your wager even if you win or being hacked because of weak security. It’s not worth the risk when you have legal options available.

Why is the sportsbook asking for my Social Security number?

Sportsbooks will ask for your Social Security number (SSN) for two reasons. First, providing your Social Security number allows the sportsbook to verify that you’re eligible to bet. Essentially, they protect themselves from violations that could lead to fines or their licenses being revoked.

Another reason is for tax purposes. Standard policy is to withhold at least 25% of your winnings, so you probably won’t have to write the IRS or the state a check when you file your taxes because you were savvy at sports betting. Providing your SSN facilitates that convenience.

Why do I have to download GeoComply?

Iowa law says that in order to place a legal bet, you have to be within the state’s borders at the time. Thus, sportsbooks need to verify your location. GeoComply is the software that many sportsbooks use to provide this vital component.

The software only tracks your location when you go to place your bet, however. Note that while you must be in Iowa to place a wager, you don’t have to live in Iowa. People who live in other states are welcome to use Iowa sportsbooks.

How do sportsbooks make money?

Think of betting on a sporting event as a show you want to attend. Then, think of the odds on your wager as the “ticket.” Essentially, sportsbooks charge a “commission,” called the juice or “vig,” for providing you this entertainment. The easiest way to demonstrate this is with -110 odds.

For every $100 bet at those odds, bettors get a little over $90 back. The book keeps that other $9 and change. Of course, the juice fluctuates as odds and the type of bet change. Put simply, the sportsbooks get their money from your wallet.

What is the difference between a legal Iowa sportsbook and an offshore one?

The simplest way to explain this is is a legal sportsbook in IA has a license from the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission (IRGC). There are implications to that, however. To get that license, book operators have to pay fees to the state each year on top of taxes on their aggregate revenue.

IA has a national low tax rate of 6.75% for sportsbooks, assessed monthly. In this way, legal sportsbooks have benefits for even Iowans who never place any bets. The tax dollars contribute to a lot of state programs, including funding resources for Iowans with compulsive gambling issues.

Sportsbooks which the IRGC has not licensed don’t contribute anything to IA. They also don’t participate in the state’s responsible gambling protocols. The easiest way to tell whether the sportsbook you’re looking at is licensed is by checking for the IRGC’s logo.

How do I know if a site is licensed and regulated in IA?

The app or website will have the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission’s logo and a statement to this exact effect. Also, you can be confident that any sportsbook we review on PlayIA is completely legal. We only cover licensed operators, so you can be sure that you’re good to use any of the books we highlight.

How do I get help from a sportsbook?

Do I have to pay taxes on my winnings?

In almost all cases, yes. The IRS considers any gambling winnings, including sports betting payouts, above $600 in a year taxable income. The IA Department of Revenue has the same standard. Most of the time, the sportsbook(s) you wagered with will send you a form W-2G that details your activity for the year. That makes correctly filing your taxes easy.

Ultimately, however, the onus is on you to report your income correctly. Thus, it’s a good practice to keep detailed records of your sports betting activity throughout the year. If you’re uncertain about anything, a tax professional in Iowa can help with your specific situation.

Can I bet on the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones?

For the most part, yes. The exception is prop bets on individual athletes‘ performances. An example of such a wager is how many passing yards the Hawkeyes quarterback will throw for in a certain game. Those wagers are illegal in IA.

Otherwise, it’s completely legal to wager on college sports in Iowa. Iowa is one of the most open states when it comes to college sports wagering, which is good for the books since it’s the biggest in-state action.

Is it legal to bet on political elections in Iowa?

No, Iowa law explicitly forbids wagers on politicians. Additionally, current regulations do not provide betting on non-sport events like the annual Academy Awards (Oscars). That’s the case in most states with legal sportsbooks, however.

If you want to travel to the United Kingdom, you can find legal markets for wagering on US elections there. Thus far, no US jurisdiction allows books to take bets on any elections.

What do the odds of +200 mean?

If you see +200 odds on a moneyline or straight bet, this would tell you that the associated athlete or team is the underdog in the contest. The favorite will have negative odds associated with them. However, you could see these odds in a variety of betting markets.

The odds also tell you what your payout would be if you stake the winner. All American odds assume a wager of $100. So, in this case, if you put that much down and won, your total payout would be $300 (your $100 wager back plus $200 in profit).

Which Iowa sportsbooks have the quickest payouts?

This question is more about which method you choose to withdraw your winnings than any operator or operators in the state. All legal books in the state have the latest technology in settling bets, commonly taking place within seconds after competitors decide an event.

Withdrawing funds from your sportsbook account can vary in speed based on which payment method you choose. For example, wire transfers can take days, while some debit card routes may only take minutes. If speed is important for you, then the best thing to do is check with individual banks’ and sportsbooks’ policies to discover precise circumstances.

How much do professional sports bettors make?

If this were easy, everyone would be doing it. The truth of the matter is making enough money to live off of solely wagering on sporting events takes a sophisticated algorithm, a staff of people entering results into the database and a sizeable bankroll.

Even with those three things, there are no guarantees. Veteran bettors will tell you that a lot of contests come down to two or three mistakes that an athlete makes during the course of an event. It’s almost impossible to predict who will make those errors and how they will affect the games beforehand.

Can I earn a living by betting on sports?

You might be more likely to win a seven-figure lottery jackpot than pull this off. The simple fact of the matter is that sportsbooks aren’t in the business of giving away money. While bettors may get wins here and there, the house wins at the end of the day.

In order to compete with the books, you’d have to employ a staff of people, generate your algorithms that are somehow superior to those the books use and have a lot of startup capital. The vast majority of people are much better off using betting on sports as a form of entertainment while setting a strict budget.

Who sets the lines?

The sportsbooks are free to set lines themselves. Most of them do that in-house, while a few will contract with third parties to handle that for them. This activity involves an entire team of people and computer programs.

Once they have a number they feel comfortable with, they’ll release it and see where the market goes from there. They may adjust the lines before the game, depending on how the market is betting, to try to even out the money so that no matter who wins, they keep some of the handle.

When are the lines usually released?

This is a balancing act for sportsbooks. They want to get odds out as quickly as they can in order to enable the greatest number of people to put down bets on an event. However, they also want to ensure they’ve done all the research they can to give themselves the best chance to keep bettors’ money.

It also depends on what type of betting you’re seeking. Futures markets, like which team will win the Super Bowl each year, have lines up months in advance. Which sport you want to bet on impacts this as well.

For example, basketball game odds usually come out a day or less before the event is scheduled to tip-off. However, the same on tennis matches can go up weeks in advance. Sometimes, you may see a sportsbook “freezebetting on a certain event temporarily.

That’s because a new piece of information has come out — like an injury or lineup change — that seriously affects the game. The sportsbook wants to adjust the markets accordingly. However, betting resumes usually quite quickly thereafter.

What is an odds boost?

In a roundabout way, think of this as a “sale.” Sportsbooks will offer a betterprice” to entice you to “buy” into a betting market. It’s a win-win, depending on how you bet and if the event goes in your favor. The sportsbook gets more handle while you get a better return if you win.

Most often, sportsbooks offer these for major events, such as a UFC bout, featuring well-known fighters. For the most part, they’re free to customize these to their liking. Within regulatory limits, the only restrictions are sportsbooks’ imaginations.

What is a profit boost token?

You’re probably familiar with loyalty or rewards programs offered by a wide array of companies. This is essentially the same thing. When you hit a certain milestone in either dollars wagered or a number of wagers placed with a sportsbook, it will give you this token.

Usually, it does come with some restrictions, like minimum odds on a bet for which you want to apply the token. It’s a good idea to read all the conditions before you use the token, so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises later.

How do I cover the spread?

Point spreads are popular for betting on basketball and football. That’s because the payout can be better than betting on the moneyline straight up. Essentially, what you’re betting on is not only a team to win but the margin of victory as well.

If you take the favorite, the athlete/team needs to win by at least the number in the line to cover. If they win but by less than the line or lose, you lose. On the other side of the market, you can take the underdog to either win or lose by less than the line.

Is it better to bet the spread or the moneyline?

There’s no black and white answer to whether you should bet the moneyline or the spread. It depends on a number of factors, the least of which certainly isn’t the odds on both markets. Additionally, you want to consider your knowledge of the event when making this decision.

This is when it’s best to understand probability and estimated return as a bettor. Quantifying how likely you are to win and how much you can expect to the net can help you make an objective, sound choice.

Can I cancel a bet?

With few exceptions, no. Once your ticket is submitted, you’re committed. If something happens that prevents the event from happening, the sportsbook will treat your wager according to Iowa law and its house rules.

For many events, however, you may have early cash-out options. Depending on when you do this and how the market is shaping up, this can be close to the value of your original wager. You’ll never get the full value of your bet back this way, however.

This is another example of when it’s best to familiarize yourself with a book’s terms and conditions before you wager. As a sports bettor, you can never have too much relevant information.

Can I bet both the point spread and the total?

Absolutely. Most sportsbooks won’t turn down your wagers even if you wanted to bet the moneyline, spread and total on a single event. Once again, the house rules will answer this question for sure.

Some books even encourage this type of betting by having special tools they call same-game parlay builders. While you can get better odds doing this, you also increase your risk. Thus, whether or not this is a good move depends on the circumstances.

What do I do if I need help with compulsive gambling?

First off, you should be proud of yourself for coming to terms with your need for assistance. Responsible gambling is important part of the legal sports betting industry. The state makes provisions for, and is accessible for free to all Iowans.

In addition to Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon (for loved ones of people with compulsive gambling issues), the Iowa Department of Public Health maintains a list of treatment services. The National Council on Problem Gambling is a great resource as well.

How do I self-exclude in Iowa?

Iowa sportsbooks take responsible gambling seriously. They not only participate in the state’s self-exclusion program by not accepting account registrations but don’t even advertise to people on the lists. Additionally, they have customizable controls for users that allow them to set their deposit and time limits.

You should be able to find information on how to self-exclude on the gambling apps/sites. You can enroll at any brick-and-mortar casino as well as through the mail. The Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission oversees these programs.

Can I register for a sports betting account online in Iowa?

Yes, since Jan. 1, 2021, you can register for a new account with any licensed sportsbook completely over the internet. You don’t even have to be inside the state to do this. So, if you live in a neighboring state but plan to cross the border into IA frequently to place bets there, you can sign up for your account and make deposits/withdrawals from your home. However, do note that you must be within the borders of IA when you actually place your bets.

Do I have to go to a casino to register for an online sportsbook account in Iowa?

Since Jan. 1, 2021, no. Prior to that date, you had to do so. However, that mandate is no longer in effect. You can still do this if you wish, as retail sportsbooks will be happy to accommodate you this way. However, it’s no longer a requirement.

What is PointsBetting?

PointsBet has an app and website live in Iowa and a retail sportsbook at the Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington. Thus, Iowa bettors have access to this unique form of wagering called “PointsBetting” that pays you more the more you’re right.

At the same time, you pay more if you miss your guess by more. The ability to essentially set your own lines is attractive to bettors because of the high customization. However, as is the rule with sports betting in general, as your potential reward goes up, so does your risk.

What are the closest casinos to Iowa City?

There are six casinos with retail sportsbooks within an hour-and-a-half drive of Iowa City. Here’s the current list, along with their online partners and physical addresses:

  • Catfish Bend Casino (PointsBet): 3001 Winegard Drive, Burlington
  • Isle Casino Hotel (William Hill): 1777 Isle Pkwy., Bettendorf
  • Isle Casino & Hotel (William Hill): 777 Isle of Capri Blvd., Waterloo
  • Riverside Casino (Elite): 3184 Hwy. 22, Riverside
  • Rhythm City Casino Resort (Elite): 7077 Elmore Ave., Davenport
  • Wild Rose Clinton (BetRivers and DraftKings): 777 Wild Rose Drive, Clinton

What are the closest casinos to Council Bluffs, etc.?

There are also many casinos in the state’s densest population centers, including the greater Des Moines area, Council Bluffs and Sioux City. Eighteen of Iowa’s 19 casinos offer both online and retail sports betting (with the exception of Ameristar II, which only offers in-person wagering). Here are the rest:

  • Ameristar II: 2200 River Road, Council Bluffs
  • Diamond Jo Dubuque (BetMGM and FanDuel): 301 Bell St., Dubuque
  • Diamond Jo Worth (BetMGM and FanDuel): 777 Diamond Jo Lane, Northwood
  • Grand Falls Casino (Betfred and Elite): 1415 Grand Falls Blvd., Larchwood
  • Hard Rock Casino (Hard Rock): 111 Third St., Sioux City
  • Harrah’s Council Bluffs (William Hill): 1 Harrah’s Blvd, Council Bluffs
  • Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs (William Hill): 2701 23rd Ave., Council Bluffs
  • Lakeside Casino (William Hill): 777 Casino Drive, Osceola
  • Prairie Meadows Casino (William Hill): 1 Prairie Meadows Drive, Altoona
  • Q Casino (Q Sportsbook): 1855 Greyhound Park Road, Dubuque
  • Wild Rose Casino Emmetsburg (BetRivers and DraftKings): 777 Main St., Emmetsburg
  • Wild Rose Casino Jefferson (BetRivers and DraftKings): 777 Wild Rose Drive, Jefferson

Can I bet on the Olympics?

To a great extent, no. Iowa law explicitly forbids most of these wagers. However, it doesn’t prohibit wagering on a lot of events that act as qualifications for athletes/teams to make the Olympics. Examples of this would be CONCACAF soccer matches. While those aren’t technically Olympic events, teams earn points toward qualifying for the Olympics by winning them.

Actual Olympic competitions are off the board in Iowa. Other international competitions, like FIBA and FIFA cups, along with international hockey series, are eligible. It’s up to the sportsbooks whether to offer action on them.

Why can’t I bet on the NBA and NFL Draft?

The Iowa law states that prop bets on player selection events are impermissible. As proposition wagers are the only kind sportsbooks can offer on these events such as the NBA and NFL Drafts, they don’t bother with booking the events in IA.

The only way to change this would be for the legislature to repeal that section of state law. This process applies to esports as well. Several gambling lobbyists and the Iowa Gaming Association are pushing lawmakers in Des Moines to make these changes.

Can I deposit into my sports betting account using a credit card?

In 2020, Iowa Legislature added a section to gambling law that forbids sportsbooks to accept deposits made by credit card. The move was billed as a responsible gambling measure. Legislators feared that people with compulsive gambling issues would ruin their credit scores.

IA sportsbooks are still free to accept deposits made with debit cards and a wide variety of other methods. Iowa is somewhat of an outlier on this, as most other jurisdictions with legal sportsbooks allow credit card deposits.

Who is the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission?

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is the government agency responsible for overseeing gambling operations in the state. Its members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the IA Senate. The members collectively ensure licensees’ compliance and administrate the collection of gaming taxes, among other things.

Who is the Iowa Gaming Association?

The Iowa Gaming Association is essentially a trade association for licensed gambling companies and establishments in the state. It is active as a lobbying unit in Des Moines and on the federal level. Additionally, it works in communities to safeguard the interest of its members. It is not a labor union for casino workers, however.

For all the latest on Iowa sports betting and online gambling, check PlayIA.