The rule-making process isn’t finalized, but Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) Administrator Brian Ohorilko sees an easier path for each Iowa casino to add a third sportsbook soon.
The Iowa code allows casinos to have two individually-branded sportsbook websites — or “skins.” Currently, casinos can add a third sportsbook by going through a more extensive rules review process. However, Ohorilko explains the change that’s on the horizon:
“The rule being proposed right now just raises the limit from two to three. That would be consistent with statutory language that says the commission can authorize up to three skins — three individually-branded websites.”
Sportsbook proposal began in 2020
The IRGC submitted the rule change to the Legislative Rules Committee to streamline the “third sportsbook” process in the fall of 2020. Getting approval from the Administrative Rules Review Committee is the final hurdle.
Barring a setback, Ohorilko said Iowa’s casinos should be able to add a third brand starting March 10.
“At this point, we don’t have any casinos that have three. Rhythm City is a casino that has agreements with three, but they aren’t live yet — and they couldn’t go live until the rule-making process is over on March 10.”
Rhythm City Casino first with three sportsbooks
The IRGC approved the operating contracts through the casino on Nov. 19. BettHouse appears to be further along in the process to become Rhythm City’s second sportsbook; Ohorilko’s office received its application on Jan. 5.
The Iowa code calls for an initial $45,000 licensing fee each time a sportsbook wants to operate in the state. If Iowa’s 19 casinos all chose to carry three distinct sportsbook brands, bettors would have 57 different options.
However, Ohorilko doesn’t think Iowa casinos will reach full capacity. Some won’t see the need to carry extra sportsbooks. Others may have exclusive arrangements with their existing sportsbook partners:
“I think that it’s unlikely that the market will dictate having that many companies. I’m not really sure at what point the market will be saturated. Currently we still are growing, so I know … there are a number of other companies still interested in entering the market. … Most people in the industry think there still is room. Once we get through the fall of ’21, we’ll see the market settle for a while.”
The administrator is only aware of Rhythm City’s bid for a third skin but, he adds, “there will be a few more.”
Iowa sports betting market grows quickly
A number of online sports betting operators want to enter the market. Many of the companies will target the 2021 football season to launch.
Ohorilko provided an update of pending licenses to PlayIA.com:
- TheScore Bet went live for remote registrations and wagers this week in Iowa. It submitted its operating contract with Ameristar Casino on Nov. 10. The Council Bluffs casino is also developing an operating contract agreement with the Barstool sportsbook brand. However, the IRGC hasn’t received that paperwork.
- Vigtory Sportsbook will partner with Casino Queen in Marquette. The IRGC approved an advance deposit sports wagering (ADSW) license on Nov. 21, and the partnership’s retail license on Jan. 21. The book hasn’t launched.
- WynnBet Sportsbook will work with Riverside Casino and Golf Resort in Riverside. Commissioners approved the operating contract Nov. 19, and the commission received the application on Dec. 31.
- The IRGC approved the contract between Catfish Bend in Burlington and 888 Sportsbook on Jan. 21.
- Bally’s sportsbook and Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort of Larchwood — near Sioux Falls, SD — had its operating contract approved Nov. 19.
- Fox Bet sportsbook and the Isle Casino & Resort in Waterloo had an operating contract approved Aug. 27.
- Again, the BettHouse and Rushmore applications are underway in Davenport.
- Circa Sports plans to join the Iowa market through an operating contract with Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Emmetsburg.
- Ohorilko expects an operating contract between Horseshoe Council Bluffs and the PlayUp Sportsbook in March.
Timing for new Iowa sportsbooks will vary
The IRGC administrator said the sportsbooks all have agreements with Iowa casinos, and they’re in the various stages of the licensing process.
“It’s anywhere from ‘they still haven’t submitted’ to ‘finalizing the licensing’ steps. What we’re hearing from a lot of these companies now is: There are a few that might make a push yet this month.”
Some casinos and sportsbooks may time their launches for the upcoming fall’s college football season. Ohorilko said:
“I haven’t heard from all of the operators, but we’re hearing from a couple that won’t quite make March Madness. Some sportsbooks are trying to get licensed in multiple states so their focus might be in a bigger market.”