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State of the Union: US Sports Betting Update – Iowa Set to Launch Sports Betting

Legal sportsbooks will fling open their doors for the first time in Iowa this week after the state gaming commission signed off new regulations for the industry. The rules come into effect at noon on Thursday, August 15, and sports fans can place wagers in-person and online from then. The Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs and the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort plan to be among the first operators to accept legal sports bets in Iowa. They will both launch on Thursday, marking the start of a brave new era for sports fans in the state.

Senate File 617 passed through the House of Representatives and the Senate in April and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it into law in May. “She believes that legalizing sports betting will bring this practice out of an unregulated black market, said the governor’s spokesman, Pat Garrett. “This law will regulate, tax and police sports betting in a safe and responsible way.”

Attractive Licensing Conditions

The state decided on a licence fee of $45,000 after wrangling between the House and the Senate, and the tax rate is set 6.75% an operator’s annual revenue. That is pretty attractive, particularly compared to a state like Pennsylvania, which charges $10 million for a licence and imposes a 36% revenue tax. The legislation permits Iowans 21 years and older to wager on sporting events at any of Iowa’s 19 casinos and online if they visit a casino once in person to prove they are at least 21. 

Most sports bets are allowed, but Iowans cannot wager on college props. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission set about creating a regulatory framework to shape the state’s sports betting industry, and the process is now complete. Iowa has a population of 3.2 million and they can begin wagering on Thursday.

Targeting Nebraska

Council Bluffs is located on the Iowa-Nebraska border, and Ameristar Casino owner Penn National hopes its new sportsbook will become a destination for sports fans in both states. The site will feature a wagering counter with ticket writer stations and a number of TV screens, while kiosks throughout the casino will allow visitors to bet on thousands of national and international sporting events. “Customers have been clamouring to place sports bets since the law passed earlier this year,” said general manager Paul Czak. “Collegiate and professional sports are embedded in the culture of Iowa and Nebraska. We look forward to welcoming customers from across the region at the incredible new sportsbook at Ameristar Casino Council Bluffs.”

The Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, located just south of Iowa City, took a punt on Iowa legalizing sports betting when it invested in a $10 million revamp of the property a year ago. It created a food and spirits lounge, with the intention of quickly turning it into a sportsbook if the state gave sports wagering the green light. When Reynolds signed the bill, it quickly converted the space, and its Draft Day Sports Lounge is now ready to open on Thursday. It will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 pm that day, while sister property Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport will open its doors at noon.

Gearing up for Online Sports Betting

Riverside and Rhythm City are already allowing customers to create online accounts and their digital sportsbooks will go live on August 15, allowing all Iowans to bet from the comfort of their own homes in time for the start of the new football season. But they hope to attract sports fans to their brick and mortar casinos on match days. “I think our hope is that, when there’s big games, people will come together, hang out, watch the game, and come to the venue,” said Donyelle Devore-Kemp, Riverside’s chief marketing officer. 

Iowa will become the 12th state to launch legal sportsbooks, following Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Arkansas and New York. Sports wagering is also about to launch in Oregon, which will take the total to 13, while sports betting is legal and pending launch in Montana, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina and New Hampshire. Legislation has been launched in 42 out of the 50 U.S. states and this nascent industry continues to gather steam.

Full Steam Ahead in Oregon

This week the Oregon Lottery announced details of an online sportsbook that will allow residents to wager on almost every professional sport. Testing is currently underway on a mobile app and desktop interface, and Lottery officials aim to launch it in time for the NFL regular season, which gets underway when the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 5. The plan is to then roll out in-person betting kiosks at Lottery retail locations around the state in the coming months.

Some Oregonians may be disappointed to see college sports betting still outlawed, but the Lottery will consider changing that at some point. “Professional sports is an easier sell to the broader audience,” said Matthew Shelby, public information manager for the Oregon Lottery. “We may revisit [wagering on collegiate events] later on. It’s a business decision for it right now. There is concern on our commission about adding colleges, never say never, but we thought it best to shy away from colleges right now.”

He added that it does not want to rush the launch, so it cannot give an official date just yet. “The biggest competitive advantage we have over offshore sportsbooks is we have a trusted local brand in Oregon, so we don’t want to do anything to hurt that brand,” said Shelby. “Before we roll this out, we want to make sure it all works right. “We have not identified a specific launch date because we’re still integrating the product into our current systems.” The Lottery has teamed up with SBTech to provide the sports betting services both online and in-person. Lawmakers aim to use revenue from sports betting to bring down Oregon’s $27 billion pension deficit.

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