In-Person Registration for Mobile Sports Betting Ends in Iowa on New Year’s Day

Posted on: January 1, 2021, 11:30h. 

Last updated on: July 28, 2022, 09:35h.

As the clock struck midnight Friday, not only did the calendar finally read 2021, but in Iowa, it also rang in a new era for sports betting in the state.

Iowa sports betting
Starting Friday, sports bettors in Iowa are able to sign up for mobile accounts from anywhere in the state. (Image: Siena University)

When the Iowa legislature passed its sports betting law in 2019, it allowed mobile sports betting. However, for the first 18 months of its existence, it required individuals who wanted to bet on their phone to first register for an account at the sportsbook’s retail location.

In some instances, that meant if Iowa residents or those living nearby wanted to bet using a specific app, they would need to drive a couple hours or more to get to that app’s casino partner in order to then use it anywhere in the state.

That 18-month window closed officially on Friday, and don’t think the sportsbooks took notice.

Leading up to the New Year, FanDuel offered new customers a $50 bonus if they signed up before the end of 2020.

Others, like Wild Rose Resorts, used the occasion to encourage Iowa bettors to register for DraftKings, an online partner of the three-casino chain.

Iowa Lags Behind Other Sports Betting States

Some sports betting analysts say requiring in-person registration for mobile accounts is an anti-competitive measure that decreases activity.

Iowa isn’t the only state that has required in-person registration. Rhode Island had the requirement until its legislature passed a law last year. In Illinois, lawmakers made a similar mandate, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker has used his authority to issue executive orders waiving it because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Nevada still requires individuals to go to a retail sportsbook first.

Wes Ehrecke, the president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association, told last February that the 18-month requirement was a compromise needed to get the bill through the legislature, as some lawmakers raised concerns about underage gambling.

We like to think we have one of the best model bills in the country for how it’s structured, with the licensing fees and tax rate, and none of the royalty fees for the major leagues,” Ehrecke said. “But this was a provision that was important. I would say that some are now thinking that maybe they wished it was maybe a year instead of 18 months, but … it’s worked. Like it’s supposed to.”

A look at Iowa’s sports betting handle compared to those figures in states that did not require in-person registration show that Iowa bettors use retail sportsbooks more often and do bet less per person.

Since July, Iowa’s per capita betting handle is $99.73. That’s compared to $138.09 for Indiana and $157.03 for Pennsylvania. From July to November, the percentage of the sports betting handle placed online in Iowa has ranged from 69 percent to 78 percent. Neither Indiana nor Pennsylvania ever dipped below 83 percent during that span.

Sports Betting Handle Per Capita
Data based on state gaming commission data and US Census Bureau population estimates.

BetRivers Launches in Iowa on New Year’s Day

Some sportsbooks have held off from entering the state because of the registration requirement.

Last February, Kindred Group announced its Unibet mobile app would not launch in the state until 2021.

On Friday, Iowa welcomed its newest sports betting application. BetRivers took its first bets on New Year’s Day. It entered the state through a partnership with Wild Rose.

Last month, 888 Holdings announced it will receive market access to Iowa, along with Colorado and Indiana. In Iowa, 888 is partnering with the Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington.

The company plans to roll out those apps during the upcoming year.

Sports Betting Handle
(Sources: Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and Indiana Gaming Commission)