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Iowa Sports Betting Set for August 15 Launch


Iowa is working to bust its own deadline and hopes to flip the switch on sports betting at noon on Aug. 15, two weeks before its original stated goal of Sept. 1.

The driving force behind this haste, the Aug. 24 kick-off of the college football season. On Aug. 31, the University of Iowa will play Miami (Ohio) in Iowa City.

On Tuesday, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission OK’d the final regulations to set the framework and pick its potential launch date. They also approved applications and issued sports-wagering licenses to 18 of 19 casinos in the state. Casino Queen Marquette is the only venue not to apply – yet.

At least 15 of those casinos are anticipated to have mobile betting as well, gaming administrator Brian Ohorilko told the Des Moines Register.

Two weeks is an ambitious timetable and state and casino officials seem determined to make it happen.

"There's an excitement, just that kind of vibe," said Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association told the Register. "We have another entertainment option to enjoy watching sports by betting on them, and we can let players do that in retail and mobile environments."

Time will tell which venues actually will launch, but at least one says it will be ready.

An official at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, which has pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, says they are primed for the switch flip. The casino’s nearly 9000-square-foot sportsbook only lacks bettors.

"Whatever the start date was is always what our date was projected to be," Brad Rhines, Prairie Meadows' senior vice president and chief strategic officer, told the Register. "Day 1, Hour 1 has been our aim."

Other casino operators, too, have been checking items off their prep lists including Eldorado Resorts properties the Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf and Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, which has a tentative agreement with William Hill to run its sportsbooks.

Elite Casino Resorts announced last week it had chosen BetFred from the UK, as its sportsbook provider at Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort in Larchwood.

Iowa lawmakers approved sports wagering in April and Gov. Kim Reynolds put her signature on the measure three weeks later.

All the sportsbooks will be governed by regulations approved Tuesday at a Racing and Gaming Commission meeting in Des Moines.

Those rules include:

•          A 6.75 percent tax on sports wagering revenue to the state. (Iowa’s tax rate, with Nevada’s, is the lowest in the U.S.)

•          A $45,000 license fee with a $10,000 annual renewal

•          Mobile wagering statewide, but bettors must prove their identity and age and open an account at a casino. In person registration is required through Jan. 1 2021

•          Mobile apps also will be geofenced and will only operate within Iowa statelines

•          Wagers on college and professional sports and some fantasy contests are OK. There is a ban on prop bets involving in-state college teams, however.

According to published reports, it is estimated sports wagering could generate between $29 million and $58 million, which translates to an estimated $1.97 million to $3.93 million in taxes for state coffers.