Ready For Some Football? Iowa Could Open Sportsbooks Before College, NFL Seasons Kick Off

Posted on: July 27, 2019, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: July 28, 2022, 09:39h.

In May, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law making the state the 11th to legalize sports betting, and it looks like the Hawkeye State could have sports betting operations up and running prior to the start of the college football and NFL seasons.

The Diamond Jo in Dubuque and other Iowa casinos could have sports betting ready for football season. (Image: Iowa Gaming)

In a brief statement issued on Friday, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) said it is conducting a meeting on Tuesday to discuss issues related to the state’s sports wagering efforts.

IRGC will be holding a meeting on July 30, 2019 to consider matters related to sports wagering and fantasy sports,” according to the Commission.

Iowa is home to 22 casinos, which includes three tribal venues. Of the state-licensed 19 casinos, 18 of them have applied for licenses to run sportsbooks. The Casino Queen in Marquette is the only casino in the state that has yet to attempt to procure a sports wagering permit.

A copy of the agenda for the July 30 IRGC meeting obtained by shows the regulatory agency will discuss sportsbook licenses for Eldorado Resorts’ Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo and the Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf, Boyd Gaming’s Diamond Jo casinos in Dubuque and Worth and Penn National Gaming’s Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, among others.

Plans Are Coming To Fruition

Earlier this month, bookmaker William Hill said it will run the sports wagering operations for the two Isle properties, extending a long-standing partnership with Eldorado Resorts. Just a few days later British sports betting giant Betfred was approved by the IRGC as an out-of-state vendor to manage the sports betting business for Elite’s Grand Falls Casino Resort.

At the July 30 meeting, the IRGC will also be considering a slew of requests to approve online betting licenses, which could come to life before brick-and-mortar sportsbooks open in Iowa. However, the Iowa law mandates that individuals wanting to open an online sports betting account within the first 18 months that sports betting is available must do so at the casino tied to the online partner. After the 18-month window expires, customers can open accounts directly online.

In an interview with The Telegraph Herald, Dubuque’s daily newspaper, IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko said some Iowa casinos will be able to offer online sports betting by Aug. 15. The first week of college football, known as “week zero” due to the small slate of games, is Aug. 24 when the University of Florida clashes with the University of Miami and the University of Arizona takes on the University of Hawaii.

Boyd Gaming spokesman David Strow told The Telegraph Herald that the Diamond Jo casinos are pushing to have sports wagering operational by the start of NFL season. On Thursday, Sept. 5, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers kick off the NFL season followed by 13 games on Sunday, Sept. 8 and two Monday Night Football games on Sept. 9.

Location, Location, Location

The push by Iowa’s casinos to have sports wagering available by the start of football season could pay geographic dividends. Six states border the Hawkeye State, but only Illinois has signed off on sports betting and the Prairie State will not be able to offer action by the start of the 2019 football season.

Of the six states that border Iowa, three – Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – have NFL franchises. Five of the six – Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin – have a Power 5 college football team. Eager football bettors in those locations looking to invest in their teams this year could turn to Iowa. In just one example, it is estimated that Nebraskans spend almost $330 million annually at Iowa casinos.