Trio Of New Sportsbooks Get OK To Enter Iowa Market

Posted By Russ Mitchell on April 19, 2021

Iowa continues to catch the eyes of emerging sportsbook operators.

Circa Sports, USBookmaking and PlayUp all had sports betting contracts approved at April 15’s Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) meeting.

There is much to like about the Iowa gaming industry.

To start, betting customers don’t have to visit a casino to register for a sportsbook account. That can all be accomplished online.

Iowa casinos have flexibility, too. Thanks to the recently simplified process, casinos can partner with up to three individually-branded sportsbook websites — or “skins.”

Three new sportsbooks coming to Iowa

Commission members reviewed the following casino-sportsbook contracts. IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko provided background on the latest sportsbook applicants:

Who is USBookmaking?

Nevada-based USBookmaking will partner with Q Casino & Hotel in Dubuque. The operator is also live in New Mexico.

Ohorilko said former William Hill Sportsbook employees helped establish USBookmaking.

“A lot of their management team are individuals that have been around the sports wagering industry for quite some time. So they have a lot of history.”

Who is Circa Sports?

Circa Sports entered an agreement with Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Jefferson. Known as the “world’s largest sportsbook,” Circa is based in Vegas, and operates in Colorado. Ohorilko said:

“Circa as a company has a massive sportsbook in downtown Las Vegas. Now, in Iowa, they will not be operating or serving as a vendor for their retail book. But they’re going to be entering into the online sports world. They’re licensed in a few other states. They’ve got a really nice brand in Nevada, and then they’ll be offering that brand here in Iowa.”

Who is PlayUp?

PlayUp, an Australian-based company, became partners with Caesars to enter the US market. Its first US-based launch was in Colorado. PlayUp will enter Iowa through the Caesars-affiliated casino Horseshoe Council Bluffs.

Ohorilko said Horseshoe liked having other PlayUp features if Iowa eventually adds online casino games, including poker:

“I know the company does some business in online poker and online gambling. As you know, those things aren’t legal here in Iowa, but it’s a partner that, for Caesars, has the ability to do things other than sports.”

Ohorilko thinks the newest sportsbooks will want to be ready for the upcoming football betting season.

“If they’re ready before then, they’ll take it. But, definitely the goal will be the end of August, early September, when NCAA and professional football kicks off. It will be very popular time for wagering. So they’ll want to be ready.”

Iowa could have 57 sportsbooks, but that’s ‘unlikely’

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.

Ohorilko previously said that he doesn’t think Iowa will reach full capacity. Some casinos 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.”

Once the IRGC receives an application, the approval process takes “anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.”

Ohorilko has said in the past:

“If the parties are motivated to get controls and to get their technology certified, that process may not take very long at all. The background process does typically take a few months; however, the commission can — and has with every other sports company that’s been licensed in another state — issue a temporary license.”

The temporary license gives sportsbooks a window to operate while the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation completes background checks on stakeholders.

“The commission should be able to issue a temporary license, so long as they’re in good standing with those other states,” Ohorilko said.

Several sports betting operators are pending launch in the state, including WynnBet, Vigtory, MaximBet and 888 Sports.

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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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