Gambling in Iowa is tightly regulated and mostly restricted to 23 licensed tribal, riverboat, and racetrack casinos, which yield over a billion in annual revenue. There used to be a constitutional ban in the Hawkeye State, but it was repealed over a scandal involving a Catholic priest from North Buena Vista who organized a charitable gambling picnic. The priest was charged with running a gambling house in 1971, and the public outrage was so prevalent that the legislature called for a repeal vote during the 1972 general action. The vote passed, and in 1973, Iowa legalized charitable bingo, raffles, and other low-stakes games of chance, paving the way for future industry expansion.

Warning: Engaging in unlawful gambling in Iowa can get you felony charges!

Iowa is a great place to have some fun with live gambling, and a terrible place for people who want to play over the internet. The general definition of gambling, “participating in a game for anything of value or making any bet,” is broad enough to cover every possible real money gaming activity, including skill-based video game tournaments with cash prizes. Even worse, the penalties for breaking this law can be severe depending on the amount of money involved.

If the sum of money or value of property involved doesn’t exceed $100, the offender is charged with illegal gaming in the fourth degree, which is a serious misdemeanor for a first offense, an aggravated misdemeanor for a second offense, a class D felony for a third offense, and a class C felony for any subsequent offenses. If the amount of money exceeds  $100 but does not exceed $500, the offender is charged with illegal gaming in the third degree, which is an aggravated misdemeanor for the first offense, a class D felony for the second offense, and a class C felony for subsequent offenses. With even more money involved, the offender is guaranteed to be charged with illegal gambling in the first or second degree, which is a class D/C felony.

According to Iowa Code, a class C felony is punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment and a $1,000-$10,000 fine. A class D felony can get you up to five years, plus a $750-$7,500 fine. Even a serious misdemeanor charge can mean one year in jail and a $375-$1,875 fine. An aggravated misdemeanor is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $625-$6,250. Trying to gamble online in Iowa is not worth it, and most legitimate sites don’t even allow residents of this state to sign up.

Gambling in Iowa is covered by Iowa Code 99 (gambling houses) et seq. and Iowa Code 725.5 (gambling and betting), et seq. The minimum gambling age is 21.

Iowa Casino Laws

Iowa casinos typically offer slots and a selection of table games, but some also operate poker rooms. The largest gambling venues are located in Altoona (Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel), Council Bluffs (Horseshoe Council Bluffs), Riverside (Riverside Casino and Golf Course), Waterloo (Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo), and Council Bluffs (Ameristar Hotel Casino Council Bluffs). Unfortunately, Iowans don’t have access to any state-sanctioned online casino options, and even playing on social sites is risky if any real-world prizes are involved. Playing on offshore sites is patently illegal and may even lead to felony charges.

Iowa Poker Laws

Casinos in Iowa run a total of 11 poker rooms. The largest poker rooms are operated by Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs (18 tables), Meskwaki Casino (15 tables), and Riverside Casino (10 tables). Aside from gambling nights organized by licensed charity organizations, playing real money poker outside those establishments is prohibited. This also applies to online play, so using offshore platforms to get your poker fix is ill-advised in Iowa.

Iowa Sports Betting Laws

Iowans are allowed to bet on horse and dog races at the local racetracks. These facilities are also permitted to telecast out-of-state races on their premises for betting purposes. Iowa doesn’t run state-sanctioned sportsbooks, but a bill proposed in January 2018 would allow the local casinos and racetracks to begin offering sports betting services on-site, possibly bringing online betting to the state. The draft, designated House Study Bill 592, is yet to be introduced to Iowa Legislature. If it gains its approval, it’s highly likely to be passed during the 2019 session.

Iowa Daily Fantasy Sports Laws

Iowa law doesn’t differentiate between games of skill and games of chance to determine whether something constitutes gambling, so DFS companies can’t offer their services to local fans by using the usual legal loophole. Iowa residents don’t have access to any of the major platforms, and even if they did, using them would be blatantly illegal. Furthermore, the Iowa DFS bill introduced in 2017, HF 613, hasn’t gained much traction in 2018 and has been stuck in a House Committee since January.

Iowa Lotteries

The Iowa Lottery offers all the standard local and multi-state draw games, including Powerball and Mega Millions, as well as scratch games and pull-tabs. The Lottery provides an official mobile app, but online ticket sales aren’t allowed, so the app’s utility is limited to scanning tickets to take part in promotions and checking the latest winning numbers.

Iowa Bingo Laws

Bingo has been a popular charity game in Iowa since 1973, but unfortunately, the law does not favor people who want to operate commercial bingo halls. Consequently, Iowa residents don’t have access to any licensed internet bingo platforms. Playing on offshore sites is considered a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the amount of money involved and previous gambling-related convictions.

Top Iowa Legal Sites

Iowa is very strict when it comes to dealing with unlawful gambling and the punishment depends on the amounts of money involved. According to Section 725 of the Iowa code, taking part in any unlicensed game is prohibited and the punishment can range from a simple fine to a felony for individual players. The law doesn’t specifically refer to online gambling, but in this case, the potential legal problems warrant consulting the lawyer whenever you have any serious doubts. While no players have been prosecuted so far, there is no guarantee that this won’t change in the future.

Iowa Online Gambling FAQ

What types of gambling are available in Iowa?

Iowa offers all kinds of live gambling, including brick and mortar commercial casinos, Indian casinos, pari-mutuel betting and lottery. Charitable gambling is also allowed and in some cases even encourage, but as you’d expect the scope of every local operation is much smaller than in the case of Nevada or even New Jersey. Online gambling isn’t really regulated and the state is still far from establishing its own intrastate iGaming market.

What laws cover online gambling in Iowa?

Section 725 of the Iowa code covers real money gaming. It’s worth pointing out that while Iowa laws don’t really refer to internet gambling, Iowa officials are free to assert that they may be applied to online games. Iowa officials haven’t tried prosecuting individual gamblers, but the potential consequences of breaking the law can be so dire that we recommend being cautious about everything you do when playing real money games online.

Is real money online gambling legal in Iowa?

Internet real money gaming is widely considered to be legal in Iowa, but the aforementioned loophole makes the entire  situation somewhat ambiguous. Still, no players have been prosecuted so far and most offshore site customers and LEOs aren’t even aware of this issue.

Which offshore gambling sites accept Iowa residents?

All the popular offshore sites accept Iowa -based gambling enthusiasts. This includes Bovada, which is the best gambling platform available to US players.

What are the most popular banking options supported by Iowa -facing sites?

Credit card deposits are fairly standard these days, but sites like Bovada also allow you to make a payment via Western Union or MoneyGram. Withdrawals are almost always handled via a wire transfer or a check by courier – if you’d like to use a different method, you’ll usually be required to contact the site’s customer support first.

Does Iowa offer any intrastate online gambling?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. In contrast to Delaware or Nevada, Iowa is yet to launch an intrastate internetiGaming industry. People in Iowa are prohibited from offering iGaming products,

which means that Iowa residents are pretty much stuck with the sites licensed outside the United States at this point in time.

Is it likely for Iowa to regulate online gambling?

Iowa already went through a few attempts to regulate online gambling, but unfortunately all of them failed. All things considered, there is a real chance that something will change for the better in the foreseeable future, but no new iGamings bill have been introduced so far.

Iowa Gambling Resources

Iowa Code: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/law

Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission: http://www.iowa.gov/irgc/

List of Casinos in Iowa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_casinos_in_Iowa