Sports gambling may see first full year with no outside impacts
Sports betting kiosk at Diamond Jo Worth casino near Northwood

DES MOINES — The new fiscal year began in July for the state’s casinos and sports betting operations.

Racing and Gaming Administrator Brian Ohorilko says this may be the first year we get a true read on the sports gambling market in the state. “Every year that we’ve had sports gambling, there has been some factor that we could say impacted the industry in some way. In 2019 the market had just opened, so we did not have very many sports books in the state,” he says. “In 2020 we had the pandemic, in ’21 there were still limited events taking place and schedules were still impacted by COVID.”

This past fiscal year saw double the amount of sports betting in the state compared to the previous year. Ohorilko says that happened as the number of sports books were still just getting launched. “I still think, you know, it will be interesting to see if it increases — one would think it would — because we have a full library of markets to wager on,” Ohorilko says.

The rules changed so you didn’t have to sign up at a casino to bet online. Ohorilko says one thing that may impact sports gambling is the sports books aren’t as aggressive in seeking customers as they were when trying to get into the market. “We’re not seeing the marketing and advertising like we did last year. So, it’ll just be something to kind of keep an eye on. Once September, October and November hit, those are the busy times for the sports books, “Ohorilko says.

You are required to physically be in the state to place a sports bet using an Iowa application. Ohorilko says that has led to some cross-border betting. “We believe we see that in northern Iowa at the casino at Diamond Jo, we believe we see some of that in Osceola and definitely in western Iowa. That is something that we see at especially those casinos that are close to states that do not have legal sports betting,” he says.

Ohorilko reminds everyone though to keep the dollar brought in by sports betting in perspective. “Sports betting is very popular. People in Iowa love sports betting. But it really is just a small percentage of the overall casino revenue and taxable revenue,” he says.

Sports betting in Iowa topped $2.4 billion dollars in the just-completed fiscal year. Ohorilko says 91% of the betting is done online.