Online Gambling For Real Money in Iowa

In less than 40 years, Iowa went from a state with no regulated gambling at all to one that is the envy of many now, among those who take a favorable view of gambling. Iowa has been well stocked with gambling since casino gambling started to really take off in the country in the early 1990’s, where they got in on the ground floor of the expansion of tribal casinos that we saw back then by approving a number of casinos on their own.

Iowa has added to its good saturation of casinos by now adding sports betting, the only major form of gambling that they were yet to add. Iowa went all in with sports betting, approving both land-based and online sites. As far as when Iowans will also be able to play poker and casino games online, what they can do both down the road and now, come along with us as we tour Iowa’s gambling scene.

History of Gambling in Iowa

Iowa Online Casinos and SlotsIowa got a pretty late start to the world of legal gambling, waiting until 1983 to pass its first law permitting it, but they have made up quite a bit of ground since. 1983 was the year Iowa finally allowed pari-mutuel gambling, something that caught on in some states as early as the 1920s and 1930s, and having no legal gambling at all in 1983 made Iowa among just a few states that did not have it in any form at that point.

It wasn’t until 1985 that Iowa saw its first pari-mutuel racing, held at several state fairs because there were no full-time pari-mutuel tracks in the state at the time. Even allowing people to gamble at these races wasn’t enough for these fairs to be able to continue with these occasional races, and the experiment ended in a failure in 1988.

Iowa wasn’t about to give up on pari-mutuel racing this easily though, and in 1989, Prairie Meadows, the state’s first commercial racetrack was completed. It struggled as well, and filed for bankruptcy just three years later, in 1991. The state of Iowa had mercy on them and a referendum was held to permit them to them to offer slots in 1994, which saved the operation.

They later got permission to offer casino table games and became a full service racino. They still offer horse racing today as well as off-track betting to go along with their casino games and have been able to make a go of it all of these sources of gambling revenue.

Iowa also has a dog racing track as well, the Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque, which only has wagering on dogs on their gambling menu but has managed to remain in operation, unlike its sister dog track in Council Bluffs that we lost recently.

After betting on horses and dogs got approval, Iowa then turned its view toward creating a lottery, and 2 years after they allowed for pari-mutuel betting to be held legally, in 1985, the Iowa Lottery was born. The Iowa lottery offers all of the popular multi-state lottery games, including Powerball, Mega Millions, Lottery America, and Lucky for Life.

Iowa was a pioneer of multi-state games, having participated in the country’s very first one when it teamed up with Kansas to offer Midwest Millions in 2007. There’s much bigger and better out these days and you can play them all in this state. Iowa’s lottery has raised over $2 billion over the years to benefit the state general fund as well as select projects.

The entire eastern side of Iowa borders on the Mississippi River, once teeming with riverboats at a time where states did not consider this gambling to be on their land and therefore tolerated it. Iowa, like many states along this great river, took a similar approach as several other states when it came time to considering it.

Iowa was the first state in the U.S. to jump in to the riverboat gambling revival of the late 20th century, in 1991, and with these new breed of riverboats, they didn’t have to even move around to be considered one. Some are even large hotels built on the water, and years after Iowa allowed them, they still boldly claimed the only casino gambling in Iowa was at their 4 tribal casinos, as anything over the water somehow wasn’t in Iowa territory, just like the old riverboats were thought to not be.

Iowa’s sister states have mostly grown out of the over water requirement, and Iowa finally broke down as well and stopped caring about this rather strange preference from a practical standpoint. They still have riverboat casinos, but this is no longer required, and Iowa now has several that are built entirely on land.

Iowa has added sports betting now, both at land-based casinos and online, with the online sports betting sites in Iowa being the ones rolling out the sites, a perfect solution to land-based casinos that fear losing business to real money online gambling.

Iowa Gambling Laws

Iowa’s gambling laws are clearly designed to provide a monopoly on gambling to the state where all forms are illegal unless otherwise permitted by law. This is not just a goal in Iowa, it’s generally the goal of all gambling law, although some do actually achieve this and some do not.

Iowa is one of the states that achieves this goal, making it against the law to “participate in a game for any sum of money or other property of any value.” This is so well targeted that it even clearly includes the sweepstakes machines, or any other game that is played for value.

If this were the whole law, we might think that sports betting might be left out, as we don’t participate in a game when we bet on sports, we instead bet on games. Part (b) of this section takes care of with “to make a bet” as an additional prohibited activity. There’s no gambling left standing after this one, as betting is what we do when we gamble.

With all forms and means of gambling rendered illegal by this law, this leaves the provisions that are authorized by law, and Iowa has a substantial amount of it in spite of how complete their gambling law is in banning it.

Iowa happens to be in the upper echelon of states that permit widespread gambling, but at least as far as land-based gambling goes, they have done a good job at creating and protecting their say in what is and is not permitted.

It is all about regulation, whether you choose to regulate a lot of gambling or choose not to regulate any, and the laws merely set the standard for this regulation, at least seeking to place all gambling under regulatory control.

The goal of the regulation of commercial enterprises is to presumably seek to protect the public, for instance ensuring that the manufacture and storage of food products is conducted in a reasonably safe manner, or that gambling operations do not engage in cheating or misrepresentation.

With gambling regulation, the tendency is to see the gambling itself as something that the public needs to be protected from to various degrees, going well beyond the normal obligation to the public where what may or may not be in the best interests of the public take a back seat to the personal views of what is considered appropriate ways to spend your money on entertainment.

Iowa has at least evolved enough to mostly permit gambling, to respect the choices of the public to a reasonable degree compared to many states, even though there still is room for improvement. They only allow what they wish to allow, but they still allow quite a bit and are poised to expand this list even more in the coming years.

Land-Based Gambling in Iowa

There are states with more land-based gambling than Iowa does, even a lot more, but Iowa is pretty well set up compared to most states, even ones with more casinos. States like California and Oklahoma have a lot more than Iowa, but they are all tribal casinos with one off tribal lands.

States were forced to allow these Indian casinos whether they liked it or not, and most states did not like it at all. Iowa showed that it didn’t mind around the time when tribal casinos started popping up by legalizing casinos on their own.

Iowa does have Indian casinos, four of them, which is not all that many. However, there are 18 commercial casinos in Iowa to go along with them, as well as a horse racetrack that also casino slots and table games. Prairie Meadows in Altoona has been offering horse racing since 1989, and off-track betting for almost as long. Iowa also has a dog racing track, Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque, but you can only bet on the dog races there.

Iowa’s 4 Indian casinos are on the smallish side as far as casinos go, but they do stand proudly alongside Iowa’s 18 non-tribal casinos. The Meskwaki Bingo Hotel Casino currently holds the title of Best Overall Gaming Resort in Iowa and is certainly the highest rated Indian casino in the state. It features a 65,000 square foot casino, not a big one by national standards but big enough to have plenty of slots, table games, poker, and bingo.

The WinnaVegas Casino Resort, operated by the Winnebago Tribe, has a 24,000 square foot casino with 650 slots, 20 table games, poker, and sports betting. The Blackbird Bend Casino has a 10,000 square foot casino with 400 slots, table games, and a sportsbook. The Prairie Flower Casino is the state’s smallest tribal casino, coming in at only 9,500 square feet, with just slots and bingo, but they have an expansion planned which will take them to 25,000 square feet of gaming.

The Ameristar Casino Council Bluffs has 38,500 square feet of gaming space with 1,500 slot machines and table games. The Casino Queen Marquette is a 17,500 square foot riverboat casino with 566 slot machines and 8 table games. The Catfish Bend Casino is another riverboat with a 14,500 square foot casino, 400 gaming machines, and 18 casino table games.

The Diamond Jo Casino used to be a riverboat casino, but like many of Iowa’s river-based casinos, they have relocated to land. It now has 35,000 square feet of casino space, 777 slots, and 17 casino table games. The Diamond Jo Casino Worth has a 38,700 square foot casino featuring 965 gaming machines, 22 table games, and a 7 table poker room.

The Grand Falls Casino boasts 900 slot machines, 22 gaming tables, and 8 poker tables. The Hard Rock Hotel Casino is the highest ranked casino resort among the non-tribal casinos with 45,000 square feet with 850 slots and 25 table games. Harrah’s Council Bluffs boasts a 25,000 square foot casino including 1,000 slots and 21 table games.

The Horseshoe Casino brand is particularly known for its poker, having founded the WSOP, and the one in Council Bluffs has a WSOP poker room to go along with 1,438 slot machines, 60 table games, and a William Hill branded sportsbook. The Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf is another Caesar’s Entertainment property with 35,000 square feet of gaming space, which offers 935 slots as well as table games and sports betting.

The Isle Casino Waterloo is also owned by Caesars and consists of a 37,400 square foot casino with 1,000 slots, 25 table games, and a William Hill sportsbook. The Lakeside Hotel Casino is the same size as the Casino Waterloo with 1,000 slots 25 table games, as well as a poker room. The Q Casino in Dubuque was originally a greyhound park, then a greyhound racino, but the dogs have left, leaving only their 1,000 slot machines left to gamble on.

The Rhythm City Casino used to be the President riverboat casino and was one of the first riverboat casinos in Iowa, opening in 1991 when casino gambling first became legal in the state. They also feature 1,000 slot machines and 25 table games as well as a sportsbook now that sports betting is now legal in Iowa.

The Riverside Casino and Golf Resort one of the largest casinos in Iowa with 58,000 square feet, 1,181 table games, 54 table games, a 14 table poker room, and a world-class golf course. Rounding out the list of Iowa casinos are three Wild Rose casinos. Clinton’s has 600 slot machines and 14 table games. The Wild Rose Jefferson rolls out 536 slots and 14 table games, while the one in Emmetsburg has 550 slots and 17 table games.

Iowa has a very good amount of casino gambling for a state with only a little over 3 million people, and now that they have legal sports betting as well, both land-based and online, things have picked up even more in Iowa as far as authorized gambling in the state goes.

Iowa Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

Iowa has just gotten in on the online gambling scene, and while just going with online sports betting isn’t exactly the full menu like some states have, it is a good start. Iowa does not take a dim view toward real money poker and casino games on land, they have no problem with people betting online, so expanding Iowa’s online gambling scene does seem to be in the cards at some point.

Regulated and licensed sports betting in Iowa first got rolled out in August of 2019. There are 6 different online sportsbooks to choose from that are offered by various Iowa land-based casinos, including William Hill and Draft Kings.

Iowa sports bettors now get to enjoy the pleasure of betting on their favorite sporting events without having to leave the state, virtually speaking that is. This is not about top offshore sports not being as reputable, because they are, it’s that players can use normal deposit methods to fund their accounts instead of having to rely on anonymous methods such as Bitcoin.

It is hard to say how long it will take Iowa to expand their online regulation to real money casino and real money poker. The fact that Iowa was so eager to jump into the online sports betting world is a good sign, but sports betting is the brass ring with online gambling and the state government already enjoys a big chunk of overall online gambling revenue with sports betting alone.

Iowa gambling law slays all forms of gambling in Iowa, including any sort of online gambling. Online sports betting was illegal up until this new law allowing it was passed, and both poker games and casino games involve betting money on “games,” as well as making bets, neither of which are allowed.

This does not mean people in Iowa do not do it anyway, playing both real money online poker and casino games at their leisure. This has in fact being going on for many years, from the time the first online betting sites popped up.

Over all these years, no one has ever been arrested in Iowa for online gambling, or anywhere in the country for that matter, even in states that officially consider gambling to be an evil practice such as Utah. If you can do something with no risk of arrest, you then get to decide whether to do it or not from a practical perspective.

Like it is in the majority of states, online poker and online casino games for real money are not permitted nor allowed in the state of Iowa. Just having this in place does keep quite a people away, as they decide merely based upon the law or the lack of easy access that not having your own regulated gambling provides.

Future of Gambling in Iowa

Iowa is not one of those states that has any sort of real problem with gambling, and there is not a single popular form of gambling that they do not allow on their land. Iowa could even be said to have an abundance of gambling, with quite a bit spread out over a state with such a modest population.

Online casino gambling in particular will test a state’s mettle as far as being willing to permit gambling in general goes, and this is the pinnacle of gambling permissibility, not due to the type of gambling it is, but due to the sheer scope of casino gambling, and to a lesser but still significant degree, real money online poker as well.

Sports betting is a more limited form of gambling, and while its reach is much greater online than on land, the number of games that you would wish to bet on is pretty limited compared to the 24/7 cornucopia of gambling that online casinos provide. This at least creates a greater sense of potential abuse, and concerns of abuse are present in even the most progressive gambling views among states.

You can also play poker all day long online and the more action a form of gambling provides, the more potential there is for people gambling more than may be deemed healthy. Sports betting is less prone to addiction because it is more intermittent, where these other two forms of gambling do not have this attribute built in.

There are therefore reasons why Iowa may not just take the next natural step toward including all three major forms of real money gambling right away, although it is still probably just a matter of time. This is at least a better bet than in most states that do not have all forms of online gambling running right now.

Whether Iowa wishes to regulate it or not, there are other jurisdictions offshore that license and regulate offshore online casinos and online poker rooms that are happy to serve the Iowan market. Those in Iowa who choose to take advantage of the excitement of these other betting games are assured to be able to enjoy this out of sight of the authorities, who may wish to monitor and intervene, but do not have the means to do either.

Among those Iowans that do decide to simply choose for themselves when it comes to enjoying all of their favorite real money online gambling games, they should certainly prefer to be well guided in their adventures, by just allowing us to be their expert guides and show them the best places to go.

Iowa Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • When did Iowa first allow commercial gambling?

    Iowa showed up at the commercial gambling party quite a bit later than in a lot of states, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that Iowa decided to allow these things. Pari-mutuel horse racing became the first form to be allowed, as has been the case in many states, where this is seen as less objectionable than other popular forms of gambling. Iowa made up for lost time over the next few years though.

  • What stimulated Iowa’s appetite toward gambling so much?

    Different regions of the country were originally settled by different people, some more adventurous than not. The people of the Midwest tend to be fairly tolerant of gambling, and even though it did take states like Iowa quite a while to warm up to the idea, once they did, it did not seem like that much of a leap to pretend that anything sitting over the Mississippi River wasn’t on their land in some sense.

  • What does Iowa gambling law permit?

    Iowa has done a fabulous job of excluding any gambling that they do not expressly permit. This is how Iowa law basically reads, where betting on games or placing bets on anything is against the law. With this in place, they are free to select whatever forms they wish, which includes betting on horses, playing the lottery, playing slots, playing casino table games, playing real money poker, and now betting on sports.

  • Is online gambling illegal as well in Iowa?

    All forms of gambling are against the law in Iowa unless the state gives you permission to do it. From the time online gambling started up to 2019, it was against the law to gamble online period when located in the state of Iowa, but 2019 was the year that the state got their first legal online gambling, at one of the 6 online sports betting sites that the state has licensed and now regulate. Real money online poker and casino remain against the law.

  • What forms of land-based gambling does Iowa have?

    Authorized gambling in Iowa started with betting on horse and dog races, and Iowa still has a track that offers each. The horse racing track also now has slots and casino table games, to go along with the casino gambling offered at its 4 tribal casinos and its 18 commercial casinos. Iowa also has a state lottery, and now offers sports betting at several of its land-based casinos.

  • Does Iowa offer regulated online gambling?

    Online gambling isn’t offered in many states but Iowa is now one of them. When a federal law that was keeping most states from daring to offer sports betting was overturned by the Supreme Court, Iowa was among the first group of states to legalize it. Iowa didn’t just stop at land-based sports betting like some states, they also added online sports betting.

  • How well is Iowa’s gambling market served?

    With a state lottery, 2 pari-mutuel tracks, and 22 land-based casinos spread over a state with just 3 million people, Iowa was already pretty well served prior to their adding sports betting to the mix, making them one of the best covered states for gambling in the nation. You can play the lottery, bet on horses or dogs, play real money poker, slot machines, and table games which are all just a short drive away.

  • How can Iowa improve their online gambling scene?

    Getting online sports betting approved is a big win for the gamblers of Iowa, and online sports betting is very popular in this state and elsewhere. Among sports fans, betting on games adds a lot of additional excitement. However, Iowa still lacks regulated online poker and online casino gaming, and once this is finally approved, this will fill up the final slots in Iowa’s gambling menu.

  • Do people gamble online in defiance of Iowa law?

    Online gambling laws surely stop a lot of people from doing it, the ones that do not understand that states are powerless to enforce laws like this. Online gambling just doesn’t exist in hard to find places as far as the state wanting to crack down on it, it exists in a place that is completely outside the view of authorities. Many Iowans simply choose to do it anyway without fear of any legal consequences.

  • Where can Iowans who wish to play poker and casino games play them?

    If you are going to forage off on your own in the world of offshore online gambling, and you are putting up your money to gamble online, it is important to get the right guidance as far as what real money online sites to try out are. There are plenty of lesser sites that you would be wise to avoid, and also several real good ones that you want to favor. We will tell you which are the real good ones.

Chief Editor: Mike leverages his true passion for online gambling to create a uniquely informative site that takes players well beyond the standard fare in the industry.