Mixed Bag for Iowa’s Legal Betting Scene in June

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The skyline is seen in Iowa's capital city, Des Moines. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

The state of Iowa, typically one of the more reliable legal sports betting jurisdictions in the broader US scene has shown that it isn’t immune to the expected and predictable seasonal summer sports betting slowdown. For the third straight month, the Hawkeye State legal sports betting handle showed declines, a trend that could easily continue until the kickoff of the NFL season in September.

It isn’t all bad news for the Iowa legal sports betting industry, however. While the overall handle decreased, revenues for the industry spiked in June. The mixed bag of June results adds Iowa to the long list of states that have reported monthly handle decreases coupled with revenue increases or vice versa. June was also the seventh straight month that Iowa surpassed the $100 million handle mark.

Diving Into the Numbers

Sports betting in Iowa is in an official slump. Three straight months of handle declines tell us so. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission report released Thursday identified a $111.2 million legal sports betting handle for the state. It is a 3.2% drop from the $114.9 million the state’s sportsbooks took in during May. June’s totals are $50 million less than the $161.4 million Iowa sportsbooks took in during their record-March reporting period.

Despite the overall drop, daily betting activity remained about the same. Sportsbooks took in about $3.7 million per day in June, nearly identical to the daily number from May.

Thankfully, Iowa sportsbook revenues didn’t follow the state’s handle down the rabbit hole. Sportsbooks in the Buckeye State made $8.4 million in net operator revenues in June, up 37.4% from $6.1 million in May. The spike is largely due to an unusually high 7.6% hold-rate for the state’s sportsbooks which is a full-2% jump from the 5.3% in May.

$568,501 in Tax Revenue Was Generated for State and Local Coffers in June

As per usual, it was Iowa’s mobile sports betting apps that dominated the overall handle. In June, $95.1 million of the $111.2 million overall legal sports betting handle were thanks to internet-based betting apps – that’s 85.6%. Retail betting handle increased $1 million to about $16 million – a number that should increase with the significant relaxation of COVID restrictions.

Fiscal Year Numbers

The end of June brought with it the end of the fiscal year for the Iowa legal sports betting scene. The yearly totals are impressive considering what the world and the legal sports betting industry experienced during the COVID-ravaged 2020-2021 period.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission identified $1.22 billion in total handle during the Fiscal Year 2021, $90.0 million in gross gaming revenue and $6.1 million in tax revenue for the 12-month period.

“The year brought significant challenges to Iowa’s sportsbooks, which made the results all the more impressive,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIA.com. “The best news is that with the pandemic’s effects on the industry waning, and online registration firmly in place, the last year is only a glimpse of Iowa’s true potential.”

Getting Through the Summer

Just like in other legal sports betting jurisdictions around the country, a significant bounce back for the Iowa scene isn’t expected to happen until the fall when football will once again dominate betting menus.

“With a lighter sports schedule and few local betting events to spur interest, Iowa won’t see significant growth in betting again until the football season,” said Dustin Gouker, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIA.com. “But there is no question that the Hawkeye State is in good position, poised for a fall expansion when Iowa, Iowa State, and the NFL once again draw bettors to sportsbooks.”

More competition for the Iowa scene could provide a small bump in betting activity. Bally Bet launched in the state in June and could provide some energy to the market and the 888 Holdings/Sports Illustrated partnership is promising something later this year.

So, Iowa will be left treading water throughout the rest of the summer, and it appears that the broader US scene will too. Iowa represents the fourth jurisdiction to report their June legal sports betting handle – all have recorded dips in their wagering activity.