Iowa Sports Betting Numbers Steady for Third Straight Month

Iowa Sports Betting Numbers Steady for Third Straight Month

Sports bettors in Iowa are increasingly turning to mobile options, with online handle in the Hawkeye State on the rise for a sixth consecutive month even though total handle was down slightly in January 2020 compared to December 2019. The slight decline is still part of a steady pattern – January was the third straight month in Iowa that sports betting handle was between $58 million and $60 million.

Iowa listed a $33.846 million online handle in January, according to the latest monthly report from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. That’s up slightly from the $33.45 million in online handle reported in December 2019 and marks the highest single-month online handle since the Hawkeye State opened to legalized sports betting in August of last year.

Overall, the state’s total handle dropped for a second consecutive month. The state reported $58.027 million in sports betting activity for January, down from $59.259 million in December 2019. That figure was a slight dip from the $59.345 million reported in November 2019, which had marked the fourth straight month of increasing handle since legalization.

The end of the college football season in a state where there are no major professional teams likely factored into Iowa hitting a plateau. College basketball betting, though popular, doesn’t traditionally gain real traction until the NCAA Tournament in March.

But another major factor, especially in explaining why mobile betting has been stuck at $33 million and change for three straight months at such an early stage, is the in-person registration requirement in Iowa. The state will phase out that hurdle but not for another year. Iowa mobile sports betting accounted for 58.33% of the total handle in January, up a tick from 56.45% in December.

In jurisdictions where people can sign up without that in-person requirement, such as bettors with New Jersey sportsbooks and Pennsylvania sportsbooks, that figure is well over 80% every month.


Iowa Sports Betting Handle, January vs. December

RetailMobileTotal
January$24.181M$33.846M$58.027M
December$25.809M$33.450M$59.259M
ChangeDown 6.3%Up 1.2%Down 2.1%

Online Handle Rising, Retail Falling

Overall, the state claimed $3.235 million in net receipts from online sports betting in January, up from $2.9 million reported in December. From the $58.027 million in total sports betting handle, the state distributed $54.792 million in payouts, down from $56.355 million in December 2019.

In terms of retail (or in-person) sports betting, the state reported a handle of $24.181 million in January, compared to $25.809 million the previous month. That marked the fifth straight month of drops in retail handle in Iowa, almost certainly a result of the increases in mobile betting the state has seen since the practice was legalized.

Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, a William Hill sports book outside Des Moines, reported the state’s largest total sports betting handle in January, at $20.064 million. Diamond Jo in Worth (on the Minnesota border) was a distant second at $4.8 million, while three other casinos also surpassed $4 million: Riverside Golf and Casino ($4.77 million), Isle Casino in Waterloo ($4.19 million), and Ameristar II ($4.18 million).

In mobile sports betting handle, Prairie Meadows was the runaway leader at $18.648 million —accounting for over half the state’s online sports betting handle by itself. Riverside, near Iowa City, posted the state’s second-largest online handle in January, at $4.04 million.

Iowa’s Path to Online Betting

Iowa, long home to gambling on riverboat casinos and in Native American territory, opened the door for sports betting in May of 2019, when Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill legalizing the practice. Iowa is now among more than 20 states or jurisdictions where sports betting has been legalized since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018.

Of the 18 casinos licensed to accept legal sports bets in Iowa, 10 accept mobile wagers. Prairie Meadows is a prime example of mobile wagering being the far more preferred option where it’s available – the facility took in 93% of its January action via mobile.

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