Iowa Sports Betting Boosts State Revenue

Elana K. - July 21, 2020

When Iowa sports betting went live in 2019, lawmakers had no idea what a lifesaver it would be during a future pandemic.

When sports betting went live in Iowa in August 2019, lawmakers thought it a small addition to the state’s comprehensive gambling options. They could not have imagined that it would prove a boon during a global pandemic, when all other gambling industries were tanking. This month, the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission reported that sports betting generated $368 million in the fiscal year of 2020, despite much of the activity being shut down due to COVID-19.

To be sure, there was an overall decrease in 2020 compared to 2019. The state’s 19 casinos brought in a little over $1.1 billion during the 2020 fiscal year, while in 2019, the casinos brought in over $1.4 billion in adjusted gross revenue. However, $1.1 billion is nothing to sneeze at.

Brian Ohorilki, administrator for the Racing and Gaming Commission, commented on 2020 revenue, “The numbers would have been lower had the facilities not been able to offer sports betting.”

Land-based casinos in Iowa shut down in mid-March and reopened on June 1, and while there weren’t many sports to bet on, even a little betting was better than none.

As Iowa’s land-based casinos re-opened in June, more sports betting options became available, like the United Fighting Championship, NASCAR events, and the PGA Tour. With more available options, sports betting naturally increased. Iowans wagered $12.7 million, mostly via mobile, an 81% increase from May’s $7 million handle. From the betting, the state earned over $620,000, a 23.9% month-on-month increase.

Previously, the state had earned just over $500,000 in May and a depressing $150,000 in April, the height of the lockdown. Now, as more sports become available, the state expects revenue to increase commensurately.

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