Sports wagering likely will come to Iowa in a matter of weeks.
Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission members will convene for a special meeting on Tuesday, July 30, when they will consider authorizing “sports wagering and fantasy sports contests” in Iowa.
If approved, these wagering activities could start in the state as early as noon Thursday, Aug. 15.
IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko confirmed that 18 of Iowa’s 19 casinos have applied for licenses that will allow them to offer sports wagering. That includes Q Casino and Hotel and Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque.
Casino Queen in Marquette is the lone facility that has not applied for a license, Ohorilko said. On both Thursday and Friday, staff at that casino told the Telegraph Herald that the only person who could comment on the facility’s plans was out of the office.
Ohorilko said the next few weeks could be busy ones for both the commission and Iowa casinos.
The facilities still must obtain approval of various “controls,” which account for procedures such as how the facilities would accept wagers, monitor integrity and address problem gambling.
“If rules were adopted on Tuesday, casinos will be working to get their controls approved,” Ohorilko said. “There would likely be a number of controls that (the commission) is looking at between July 30 and Aug. 15.”
Ohorilko said he expects some Iowa casinos will be in a position to offer at least online sports gambling immediately after it becomes legal on Aug. 15. In Dubuque, it could take a bit longer.
David Strow, a spokesman for Diamond Jo parent company Boyd Gaming, said the local casino aims to open its sportsbook in time for the National Football League’s regular season, which begins in early September. However, he said the venue doesn’t have a more specific timetable at this time.
Strow said Diamond Jo’s sportsbook will be located in the southeast corner of the casino, near the south entrance to the facility. It will be located in an area that previously housed slot machines, and construction already is underway.
“We’re working diligently to get the sportsbook open,” he said. “It will be a great addition to Diamond Jo and one that customers will greatly enjoy.”
Q Casino also is making strides.
CEO Jesus Aviles said he is aware of sports gambling’s rapidly approaching timeline. Even so, he remained skeptical that all Iowa casinos would be able to implement the new offering immediately.
He noted that most casinos are depending on third-party providers to implement the new sportsbooks. Because many of these providers are serving multiple casinos, they could be stretched thin in the coming weeks.
He said late August or early September represents the most likely timeline for the Q sportsbook.
“With this kind of endeavor, being first to market is not our main thing,” he said. “What is important is that all of our systems are A-plus. We’ll be testing and re-testing and making sure there are not any glitches.”
Aviles emphasized that the “infrastructure work” is coming along well at Q Casino.
New televisions already are on display within the sportsbook, which previously was utilized as a sports bar. Crews now are working on an area that will house “tellers” capable of accepting sports wagers.
“The goal for our room is that it will be a relaxed atmosphere,” Aviles said. “It will be a place where you can place a bet, order lunch or dinner and watch a game.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in May signed a bill establishing a legal way to bet on professional, collegiate and international sports.
However, the path toward legalization began about one year earlier.
In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. That law had effectively banned sports betting in the vast majority of states, including Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Iowa gaming officials immediately took notice.
“We started monitoring this issue immediately after the Supreme Court ruling,” Ohorilko said. “Without that preparation, we never would have been able to implement this within the three months (since the law was approved in Iowa).”
State gaming leaders believe the legalization of sports betting will take the activities out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
“In the past, people either could bet on sports in Nevada, or they had to do so illegally through a bookmaker or an offshore website,” said Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of Iowa Gaming Association. “Now, people can do so in a legalized manner.”
The legalization of sports betting also will involve “daily fantasy sports betting,” which predominantly involves wagering on the performance of specific players as opposed to team-based results.
Diamond Jo appears poised move on that market.
Tuesday’s IRGC agenda includes a “sportsbook services agreement” between Diamond Jo and FanDuel, a leader in the daily fantasy sports market. Boyd Gaming announced a partnership with the company back in August.
Meanwhile in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker in late June signed into law a bill that included legalized sports betting. It is anticipated that Illinois residents could begin placing bets within one year, with the Super Bowl in February considered the earliest that such wagers could be made in the state.
In Wisconsin, where sports betting is prohibited under the state constitution, there has been little or no activity toward legalization.