Bettors collectively wagered $9.5 million at Dubuque’s two sportsbooks in 2019, raising expectations for what could lie ahead as legalized sports betting enters its first full year.
FanDuel Sportsbook, located within Diamond Jo Casino, reported a total handle — or amount wagered — of $4.81 million in 2019, earning just over half the Dubuque market share. Meanwhile, the sportsbook in Q Casino and Hotel had a handle of $4.69 million.
These wagering totals represent roughly one-third of a calendar year. Q Sportsbook opened Aug. 27 and FanDuel Sportsbook launched on the first day of September.
Dave Manning, the manager at Q Sportsbook, has observed a growing interest in sports betting.
“I think it is really catching on,” Manning said. “There are some people who come in hoping to make money, but there are also a lot who just do it for entertainment.”
Wagering activity has increased substantially each month since the two Dubuque facilities opened.
In September, the two Dubuque sportsbooks collectively reported a handle of $1.55 million. That figure has more than doubled since, reaching nearly $3.27 million in December.
SPORTS BETTING COMES TO IOWA
The legalization of sports betting in Iowa can be traced back to May 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The ruling opened the floodgates for legal sports betting nationwide.
Last May, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill establishing a legal way to bet on professional, collegiate and international sports. The first Iowa sportsbook opened Aug. 15.
Since then, the industry has been on an upward trajectory.
The statewide sports betting handle was $38.5 million in September. In December, that figure was $59.3 million.
Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Administrator Brian Ohorilko attributed much of this increase to the growing number of options available to bettors. Throughout the year, more sportsbooks continued to open and some introduced mobile wagering platforms.
“The market was maturing in 2019, and I think that still is the case,” Ohorilko said. “We anticipate that a number of (sportsbooks) will launch mobile applications here in late winter or early spring.”
Eighteen of Iowa’s 19 licensed casinos now operate sportsbooks. Ten of these casinos also offer a mobile betting option.
Casino Queen Marquette in Clayton County is the lone licensed casino in Iowa that does not offer sports betting.
However, state officials have approved a sports gambling license for that facility. Casino Queen marketing manager Amy White said the casino plans to open a sportsbook in the spring.
Prior to the legalization of sports betting, critics raised concerns about everything from underage betting to match fixing. Gaming officials have not encountered any major issues or concerns since sports gambling was legalized, Ohorilko said.
“Things have gone fairly smoothly. Really to this point, we have not seen any material issues,” he said. “I think a big reason for that is because there was a lot of work done prior to launch.”
MOBILE OPTIONS DRAW CROWD
In mid-November, Q Sportsbook launched a mobile application for sports betting. The app allows residents from any state to place bets on their smartphones as long as they are within Iowa state lines.
Internet handle — which reflects money wagered through mobile and online platforms — was just over $298,000 for Q Sportsbook in November. The online and mobile wagering total grew to $914,000 in December.
For the time being, that has changed the dynamic in the Dubuque market.
FanDuel Sportsbook reported a significantly higher handle than Q Sportsbook in September and October. Since launching its mobile app, Q Sportsbook has earned more than half of the Dubuque market share in consecutive months.
FanDuel Director of Publicity Kevin Hennessy said the sportsbook will launch a mobile app in Dubuque in 2020. However, a specific date has not been established.
Hennessy noted that FanDuel has rolled out similar offerings in multiple other markets with successful results.
“In each state that FanDuel has operated, we have started with retail and added online/mobile and it has made a significant impact on handle,” he said via email.
WHAT LIES AHEAD?
In the realm of sports betting, football is the undisputed king.
Hennessy said the busiest days at FanDuel Sportsbook have been Saturdays and Sundays, when customers convene to take in college and professional football.
“It’s tough to top football,” Hennessy said.
Wagering volume could reach its peak when the Super Bowl is played on the first Sunday in February.
“We’re expecting some good numbers that day,” said Manning. “It is the biggest sporting event of the year. And if the Green Bay Packers make it, it will be even bigger.”
Hennessy said he hopes sporting events like the Daytona 500 and the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament will continue to attract bettors once football season is complete.