Effective January 1, Iowa residents no longer have to show up on-site at one of the state’s 18 licensed casinos to register for online and mobile sports betting. The provision was part of the original August 2019 legislation that legalized sports wagering in the state. Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Administrator Brian Ohorilko said removing the on-site registration requirement will help sportsbooks reach a broader audience, including those who live beyond driving distance. “The market will become very competitive very quickly. I think we are really going to see sports gambling expand,” Ohorilko said.
He noted, “We are processing license applications or are aware of applications that appear to be imminent for up to an additional ten new online sports companies. It is more likely than not that our market will look very different by summer once this new wave of applications subsides.”
To Draft Kings Director of Sportsbook Operations Johnny Avello, January 1 represented a “first launch.” He explained, “This is the correct way to do it. This gets everybody who wants to be involved to be involved. It’s been a tough year, and if you have to go to a place to register, some people just don’t want to leave their home, or the facilities have been closed. Even if this weren’t a pandemic year, it’s now easier for people to participate in what we offer. It’ll be a game-changer.” DraftKings has sportsbook affiliations with three Wild Rose Casino properties in Jefferson, Clinton and Emmetsburg.
Play IA.com Analyst Jessica Welman stated, “The in-person registration requirement has unquestionably stunted the growth of Iowa’s online sports betting market, which is the main engine in every state where it is legal. With the requirement in place, Iowa would have never reached its potential as a market. Letting the requirement to expire is akin to correcting a mistake, and we expect Iowa to finally begin to blossom because of that correction.”
Analysts said in 2019, within five years Iowa would grow into a market that generated more than $4 billion in bets annually, more than $300 million in operator revenue and more than $20 million annually in state taxes. However, since launching in August 2019, sports betting in Iowa has generated a total of $682.6 million in wagers and $53.4 million in revenue, including $3.7 million in state taxes, according to official data.
In Dubuque, Q Casino and Hotel General Manager Brian Rakestraw said,
“I am optimistic. This should be more of a normal year for sports, and I think the betting industry will do better in 2021 than we did in 2020.” Rakestraw said Q Sportsbook is developing a new mobile app which will allow online registration plus promotional offerings.
FanDuel Sportsbook spokesman Kevin Hennessy stated, “Iowa now has a great retail sports betting infrastructure and a mobile sports betting marketplace that offers choice, innovation and customer service for Iowa customers to embrace in 2021.”
And in Jefferson, Wild Rose Casino General Manager Travis Dvorak said its DraftKings online sportsbook already is one of the most popular in the state. Removing the on-site registration requirement “is a way for us to bring a big brand to the entire state. I think when we put a big brand in all you can get is positive out of that.”
Not everyone is as excited about the end of on-site sports betting registration. Substance Abuse Services Center of Dubuque Prevention Supervisor Mary Boots said that has made sports wagering easier than ever. “Sports betting is always accessible, even when you are sitting at home or working from the office. If you have your laptop or smartphone, you can place a bet at any point of the day. You don’t have to live near a casino anymore.”
Boots also expressed concern that online wagering would allow individuals younger than the legal betting age of 21 to place bets, although Ohorilko said safeguards are in place to avoid that. He added those who already signed up for the state’s self-exclusion list will be flagged if they try to register for online sports betting. In addition, people can limit how much they can wager within a designated timeframe, as well as how much they can deposit into their account. “There is always a small percentage of people susceptible to gambling too much. It is nice to know that, with the online betting, there are additional controls that have never been an option in a physical environment,” Ohorilko said.
He added, “It will be interesting to see how the market in Iowa shifts, once customers have access to various sports wagering companies. I would expect some growth, but significant market shift. We’ll see increased advertising, marketing, promotions and requests for creative wagering opportunities to get both new and existing customers, so it should be a very good time to be a customer in the state of Iowa the first few months of 2021.”