There was a time that even playing pinball in Iowa was considered illegal under certain circumstances, but the state has come a long way since then. It was the 11th state to introduce legal sports gambling after the Supreme Court killed PASPA in 2018 and it continues to fine-tune its market. Response to the launch of legal sportsbooks has been significant and, despite a recent dip in revenue that was consistent with market trends, sports gambling in Iowa could get a new boost. Thanks to the approval of legislation recently signed into law, Iowa casinos are now able to offer lines on foreign horse and dog races.
Iowa Clarifies Sports Gambling Rules
For a while, Iowa casinos have put up live broadcasts of races that were held outside the US, but that changed last December. Concerns were raised that taking bets on foreign races may fall into a legal grey area, forcing simulcast racing to be suspended. Those concerns were addressed by lawmakers as they drafted a bill to legalize wagers on foreign races, and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds greenlighted the bets when she put pen to paper and signed the bill.
Not all races at all foreign tracks will be allowed, however. According to Senator Roby Smith, “In the research of this bill, I called the Racing and Gaming Commission’s Brian Ohorilko, who is in charge of that. He has assured me that over the past number of years they have taken into account the corruption — if there is — at the track, condition of the track, condition of the workers and the condition of the animals, so they can choose not to use that track if they think there’s a problem in any one of those things.” Smith didn’t specify which tracks might be barred or if the state will constantly review operations at foreign tracks to gauge integrity.
New Options For Iowa Sports Gamblers
Iowa’s sports gambling market has been relatively strong this year as the state’s policymakers have introduced common-sense changes to the activity. Online sports gambling is legal but not until recently was it possible to register online. After the in-person registration was dropped earlier this year, sports gambling revenue has grown and set a new state record in March. Iowa recorded a handle of $161.44 million that month, undoubtedly due, in part, to March Madness, but couldn’t sustain that level in April. The handle dropped to $118.36 million, but the results show how important online registrations are. In April of last year, with casinos closed due to COVID-19, the handle was just $1.57 million.
Iowa legalized simulcast horse and dog races in 1989 and, while the clarification of the race gambling laws won’t have a major impact on revenue, every little bit helps. In addition to the races held each year in the US, there are also popular global horse races held in Australia, France, the United Arab Emirates, and more. Dog races, on the other hand, have fallen out of favor and are becoming obsolete. They were once a huge part of the gambling scenes of Florida, Macau, and other locations, but are now all but extinct.