When can Iowans start wagering on sports? Bet on football season.
Prairie Meadows recently finished renovations and is ready to open the states first sports book once the Legislature approves it. Des Moines Register
Iowans eager to start placing bets on their favorite sports teams will have to wait just a little longer.
Although Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation Monday allowing legal wagering on college and professional sports in Iowa, as well as fantasy sports, that doesn't mean gamblers can pull out their phones or stroll into a casino and start betting immediately.
First, rules must be written and licenses issued.
"For right now, nothing really has changed," said Brian Ohorilko, administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. The commission will regulate sports betting in the state.
The commission's staff is currently working to draft the rules that will govern the licensing process, the posting of odds and payouts, how the money will flow through players' accounts and how information about problem gambling can be provided.At some point this summer, there will be a public hearing on those rules, and Ohorilko said he expects them to go into effect sometime during the first half of August.
"If everything goes smoothly, then I think it is reasonable to expect that bets will be taken before football season," Ohorilko said.
Iowa isn't the only state to legalize sports betting
Eleven states have legalized sports betting since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year opened the door for states to allow the practice.
According to ESPN, seven states legalized sports betting last year, joining Nevada, which was previously the only state to allow it. This year, Iowa, Indiana, Montana, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., have legalized sports betting. A number of other states have similar legislation pending.
"It feels right now like the Midwest is the next big movement in sports wagering," said Cory Fox, counselwith FanDuel, a fantasy sports site.
Fox said FanDuel will start working immediately with the Gaming Commission to apply to offer fantasy sports betting in Iowa. It also plans to offer sports betting through its partnership with Boyd Gaming, which operates Iowa's Diamond Jo casinos.
In the meantime, Iowans who want to register for a FanDuel account and play free fantasy sports can do so. They'll just have to wait to participate in any paid games until the company has a license.
Casinos working to get ready to offer sports betting
The next three months could bring a flurry of activity as Iowa's casinos form agreements with third-party sportsbook operators and renovate their facilities, said Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association.
"I think several (casinos) were wanting to see what happened with the bill and its passage," he said.
Prairie Meadows executives said Tuesday they expect to be the first Iowa casino to offer sports betting once the rules are in place. The casino has already been making preparations. Officials signed a partnership with leading sportsbook operator William Hill in January and finished work on a fourth-floor sportsbook area in February.
The 8,600-square-foot area features dozens of TVs to show games, a bar with craft beer and an arena scoreboard and ribbon board to display games and odds.
"It's all very fluid," said Brad Rhines, the casino's senior vice president and chief strategic officer. "But, tentatively, we think early August will be a good time to launch."
Prairie Meadows executives said they hope to open the new sports area in advance of the college football and NFL season.
“This gives us the ability to showcase what we can do and work out any potential issues in advance of the busy season,” Rhines said.
In Burlington, Catfish Bend Casino has also been getting ready. It inked a partnership with the Australian sports betting company PointsBet and is renovating a 5,000-square-foot area into a sportsbook, said CEO Gary Hoyer. He expects the sportsbook to be ready to go in August once the rules are drafted.
"I am hearing interest probably like nothing else since the opening of riverboat gambling in Iowa back in 1991," he said. "Wherever I go, whether it's the grocery store or out for dinner, it's the topic that everyone stops and wants to talk about."
What do Iowans think about sports betting?
Not all Iowans will be excited about sports betting.
A February Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found 52% of Iowans opposed legalizing betting on professional sporting events and 69% opposed legalizing betting on college sporting events. Iowa's law will allow both.
Only 4% of poll respondents said they regularly wagered on sports events like a March Madness pool or placed a bet on the outcome of the Super Bowl, even informally with friends. Eighty percent of Iowans said they hadn't placed informal bets on sports events in the past few years.
But some Iowans who have done friendly wagering in the past say they see sports betting at casinos as a fresh way to enjoy sporting events.
Justine Scheib, of Solon, typically places a bet or two on her March Madness bracket or an NFL game. She said she'd be willing to go to a casino to enjoy games in a new way.
“You could go to the casino and watch it and make some money,” she said. “It’s more of an outing instead of staying at home and having your own family wagers.”
Scheib said she's not worried about the two-month wait on gambling rules.
Neither is 28-year-old Jacob Bruns, who has made similar wagers on games in the past and said he plans to eventually pay a casino a visit once the rules are in place.
"Change is happening, but it's not supposed to happen overnight," he said.