Iowa’s Quirky New Sports Wagering Law
Posted on 07/31/2019 at 01:42 PM by David Gonzales
Every sport has crazy rules from baseball’s “balk” to the NASCAR “free pass” so it only seems right that Iowa’s new sports wagering law has some quirky rules of its own. The recent legalization of sports gambling in Iowa has caused much excitement for both casino owners and sports fans who will finally get to place legal bets on their favorite sports teams. Now that the rules have been set and the first wave of licenses issued, it’s a good time to take a look at what you will and won’t be able to wager on in Iowa. Iowans will be able to wager on their favorite professional sports teams, but not necessarily their local teams.
Both the Iowa Code and the recently published rules exclude minor league professional sports from wagering eligibility. Iowa is currently home to six professional baseball teams, one professional basketball team, one professional hockey team, two professional football teams and three professional soccer teams all below the major league level. No bets will be allowed on any of these Iowa based franchises under the exemption of “minor league” sports from Iowa’s sports wagering law. This, of course, makes good sense as minor league athletes, with lower salaries, may be more easily drawn in to a gambling scheme involving inside information than major league athletes. However, the same argument could have been made for collegiate sports.
In contrast to the stratification of professional sporting events, neither the Iowa Code nor the newly published rules make a distinction between levels of intercollegiate competition. The definition of an “intercollegiate sport” is imported from another portion of the Iowa Code and merely requires that “eligibility requirements for participation by a student athlete are established by a national association that promotes or regulates collegiate athletics.” This definition encompasses not just NCAA events at the Division I, II and III levels, but potentially any NAIA competition as well. Theoretically, Iowans could be allowed to place bets on this year’s Waldorf Warriors vs. Dakota State Trojans football game. However, profitability concerns will likely keep games outside of NCAA Division I off the betting board and one of the new rule requirements for licensees is a procedure to spot and report unusual betting patterns to prevent gambling schemes.
Iowans will be allowed to place bets on Olympic sports for the upcoming 2020 games in Tokyo and the 2022 World Cup. In fact, more than just those major events will be eligible for betting in Iowa. Any event that is “governed by an international sports federation or sport’s governing body” may be listed by a licensee for sports wagering. Die hard soccer fans will be happy to learn that the European Championships in 2020 would qualify under this definition if a licensee feels that the demand is sufficient to list the games in their sports book.
An interesting fact, the state of Iowa is the home of twenty-eight dirt track raceways. Motor racing is a favorite pastime of many rural Iowans filling Friday and Saturday nights from Alta to West Liberty. Surprisingly, the one term neither the Iowa legislature nor the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission chose to define in the Iowa Code or the rules was “professional motor race event” which is a permissible event for sports wagering. Leaving aside whether these are “professional” motor races, it’s unlikely that a sports book will list your local dirt track. However, events at the Iowa Speedway in Newton and the annual Knoxville Sprint Car Nationals are events that may draw enough attention to open betting.
It will, of course, be up to the individual sports wagering licensee which sporting events they choose to offer for wagering. There will also be no so called “prop bets” on things such as coin tosses before a game or number of pass interference penalties. Bets must also be placed in person at least for the time being. Establishment of advance deposit wagering accounts must be done in person until at least 2021 and placing a bet for another person is strictly prohibited (no bookie runners). For now Iowans will have to be content with physically going to the new wagering location, placing their bets, and rooting for their favorite team to win…or at least cover the spread.
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