Iowa State

From casino gaming to lotteries and pari-mutuel betting, there is a well-regulated gambling industry in the “Hawkeye State” – in other words, gambling is allowed, but not at unlicensed or non-regulated venues. As for free play online casinos, free fun online slots and the like, Iowans can also enjoy these with total peace of mind, as no money is being exchanged here – it’s when you’re gambling online for real money that the laws become less clear-cut. Here, we’ll take a look at the legalities and illegalities of gambling in Iowa, whether it’s online or offline, and we’ll attempt to give you a clearer picture of the implications involved.    

Iowa’s Gambling History

Bordered by Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota, Iowa is the 30th most populous state in the United States of America. During the 1980s, pari-mutuel betting on horse and greyhound racing were legalised, with provisions created to encompass simulcast gambling and allow votes on the introduction of riverboat gambling. It was also the decade that saw the beginning of the state lottery, which would grow to include PowerBall and Mega Millions.  

When it comes to gambling, the “Hawkeye State” stands out in that each of its counties were given the opportunity in 1991 to vote on whether or not they wanted casinos on their land – a very democratic process indeed. In the subsequent 2 decades, 18 casinos have been licensed, along with riverboat casinos and lavish tribal casinos.  

By 2012, a bill intended to regulate online poker made its way to the senate, but was shunted aside when it missed the introduction deadline. A year later, another bill intended to legislate online poker went to committee, but was killed off – it is speculated that influential tribal casino owners were responsible.

Gambling – What’s Legal and What’s Not in Iowa?

Depending on the venue, the legal gambling age is 18 or 21. There are over 20 land-based casinos and 3 racinos, while the state’s casino regulatory body is the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission. So what is legal and what is not? Let’s take a look…    

  • Land-based Casino Games: Yes, there are numerous licensed commercial casinos located throughout the state. These include Horseshoe Council Bluffs, Prairie Meadows, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Harrah’s Council Bluffs, and Diamond Jo Casino, to name a few, while the Native American-owned casinos comprise Blackbird Bend Casino, Meskwaki Casino and WinnaVegas Casino Resort. There are also several riverboat casinos. These establishments offer Iowans, as well as visitors to Iowa, access to table and card games like poker, blackjack, roulette and craps, as well as slot machines.  
  • State Lottery: Yes, this is one of the most popular types of gambling in the state of Iowa, and includes inter-state lottery games like PowerBall, as well as MegaMillions.
  • Online Casino Games: No, but as is the case with so many other states in America, this is not as clear-cut as you’d think. That’s because there are no sections in Iowa’s gambling legislation dealing specifically with Internet or online gambling. What makes it tricky is that, in the same breath, lawmakers can make the argument that Iowa’s current laws, while abstruse and outdated, can still be applied to Internet gambling. Due to the absence of online gambling legislation and a framework to regulate the online gambling world, there are no lawful online sites functioning in Iowa. However, you can play, without fear of reprisals, at numerous fully licensed and regulated offshore online casinos that accept players from Iowa – in other words, it’s not illegal for Iowans to sign up and gamble at these sites, which include, BetOnline and Bovada. In fact, no-one has ever been arrested for playing online casino games, and Iowa lawmakers are more likely to go after people who are operating an online gambling business from within the borders, as opposed to someone merely playing.      
  • Fun Play Online Games: Yes. If you’re someone who’d rather err on the side of caution and not take any chances, you can always do a search for free play online casinos, free fun online slots, mobile social casinos, Facebook casinos, how to play at Facebook casinos, fun play casinos, social casino apps or free play online casinos. As no exchanging of money is taking place, this is a perfectly legal form of entertainment.
  • Live Poker: Yes. In Iowa, there are loads of live poker games that are available to play at racinos, as well as commercial and tribal casinos. When it comes to social poker, it’s allowed, but whoever is running the game must not be making a profit and the stakes must be kept small.
  • Online Poker: No, but this could change in the near future because of Iowa’s gambling laws, which are quite progressive.
  • Sports Betting: Yes. Iowans can participate in pari-mutuel betting, either at the racetracks or at assigned venues where simulcast inter-state betting is permitted.
  • Online Sports Betting: No, but as with online casino games, if you’re going to a licensed and regulated offshore site, you should be fine.
  • Bingo Games: Yes, raffle type games and charity bingo are allowed, as long as they’re individually licensed. 

Final Thoughts on Iowa and Gambling

There are lots of opportunities for gamblers within the boundaries of the “Hawkeye State”. Moreover, the profits generated from Iowa’s gambling industry do not vanish into the coffers of the state, rather, they go towards important philanthropic causes like education and public works. As for online gambling, Iowa is regarded as one of the states that are most likely to make this legal in the near future – this will have to be done in discussion with tribal casino owners, but the prospects are looking quite bright indeed. Till then, the current laws are quite vague regarding online gambling, so we’d strongly recommend you stay away from any sites operating from Iowa itself. It is operators of the online gambling sites in Iowa that are most likely to be targeted. For players, as long as you’re playing at a regulated and fully licensed offshore online casino, you should be fine.