Will Iowa Be the Next State To Pass iGaming?

Will Iowa Be the Next State To Pass iGaming?

Iowa ranks high on many industry insiders’ lists when it comes to which state might legalize iGaming next.

At the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States Summer Meeting in Denver two weeks ago, Light & Wonder Global Head of Government Affairs and Legislative Counsel Howard Glazer said Iowa is in a group of states, along with Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland and New York, that he believes can legalize online casinos next year.

“I can’t tell you which of those states is going to pass iGaming next, but that’s the group,” he said. “Between one and some number next year are going to pass iGaming. Whether it’s one, two, three, I don’t know, but they will move because you can’t argue with the growth.” 

Iowa Gaming Association President Wes Ehrecke was also in Denver for the NCLGS  conference. He spoke with IowaBets, your home to Iowa sports betting, last week regarding the iGaming’s chances in the state legislature next year.

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Iowa iGaming Bill May Mirror Sports Betting Legislation

Ehrecke said about two-thirds of the gaming group’s membership support legalizing iGaming. 

He added a few of the 19 members are waiting to see data that shows online casinos won’t impact their bottom lines.

“I think part of that, too, is just bringing a bill that all the industry can see and understand what it’s going to look like, not unlike the sports wagering bill that was passed a few years ago,” he said.

There isn’t a sponsor confirmed yet in the legislature, although Ehrecke mentioned state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, could be a “strong possibility.” Kaufmann, who shepherded the sports betting bill through the process in 2019, filed an iGaming bill during this year’s session, but that was simply to keep the conversation going.

Iowa iGaming legislation would likely be similar to the sports betting bill, with Ehrecke believing the state’s commercial casinos would partner with online operators.

“The way I would see this being modeled is that it would have to come through a casino, but they would be regulated by the (Iowa) Racing and Gaming Commission,” he said. “We have a high level of integrity. Safeguards, responsible gaming and various things we’ve put in place in this bill. From that, then we’d be able to have that dialogue.”

The dialogue will be an essential, Ehrecke said, especially since several new lawmakers have been elected to the statehouse in Des Moines in the last couple of years.

Where Is iGaming Legal In the U.S?

Currently, seven states have legalized iGaming. Last month, Rhode Island joined Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia when its legislature passed a bill allowing Bally’s Corp. to be the state’s exclusive online operator.

Several sports betting operators also have a companion iGaming app, with both platforms using the same online wallet. Besides slot machines, online casinos offer table games, including live-dealer games broadcast from studios to the app.

Iowa sports betting launched four years ago next month, and it has been one of the more successful states in the post-PASPA era. 

Despite it being one of the smaller markets population-wise (roughly 2.5 million adults statewide), 19 licensed online Iowa sports betting apps are available in the state. Only New Jersey and Colorado have more.

Iowa iGaming would almost assuredly generate more revenue than sports betting. In New Jersey, the Garden State’s online casinos have reported revenues of $930.8 million for the first six months of 2023. 

The state’s sportsbooks have reported revenues totaling $440.8 million over the same timeframe.

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Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.