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Iowa’s December Handle Points to More Records Falling Across the Country

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Iowa’s December Handle Points to More Records Falling Across the Country
A teller counts cash (Photo by DOMINICK REUTER / AFP)

The state of Iowa has become a good monthly measuring stick about where the US legal sports betting scene stands. More often than not, Iowa is the first of the major sports betting states to report out on their previous month’s take and mostly, they have set the tone for what to expect from the rest of the 19 states with regards to their monthly sports betting handles.

December in Iowa represented yet another monthly handle-record and the fourth straight month that the state has set a new high-water mark. With football still dominating and the NBA returning to betting menus, Iowa easily eclipsed November’s handle, although the news isn’t all positive with the decline in December revenues.

Diving Into the Figures

According to the Iowa Racing Gaming Commission, the Iowa legal sports betting industry topped $100 million in handle for the first time ever in December. Iowans bet $104.8 million on their favorite sports in the month, which represents an impressive 20.2% spike from November’s previous record-$87.17 million.

It comes as no surprise that mobile sites dominated the handle totals in December. Mobile apps were responsible for another record-$78.07 million of the total handle or 74.5%. While not touching the 90% threshold currently being hit by the most successful bet-friendly states in the nation, Iowa’s mobile scene spiked an eye-opening 25.1% from November’s $62.41 million.

$508,748 was Added to the State’s Tax Coffers in December.

Revenues for Iowa’s sportsbooks unfortunately didn’t follow the state’s handle. Revenues actually dipped 7.5% to $7.54 million – down from November’s $8.14 million. The nation’s sportsbooks reported higher than normal jumps in hold because of favorable NFL outcomes for the house in December and the books’ win rate was 7.19%, well below holds in October’s 11.11% and November’s 9.34%.

However, December’s numbers took the 2020 betting total to and impressive $575.24 million with revenues of $41.61 million. The state’s 2020 tax take total came in at $2.86 million for the year.

With December’s totals in, the Iowa legal sports betting industry has reported $682.6 million in wagers and $53.4 million in revenue for the State since its August 2019 launch.

Year-Over-Year

A look at the year-over-year numbers reveals just how far the Iowa legal sports betting came in 365 days. The December, 2020 handle increased 76.9% from $59.29 million in December, 2019 and the online contributions spiked 133.4% from the $33.45 million that apps were responsible for a year ago.

Year-over-year revenues showed equally impressive gains. December, 2019’s revenue total was just $2.9 million, 159.5% lower than the $7.54 million sportsbooks make in December, 2020.

Why January and Beyond Could Be Even Better

We have seen the mobile handles continue to grow in Iowa but it may just be the tip of the iceberg. January 1 saw the end of the antiquated in-person mobile sportsbook registration policy on that day. Registration for betting apps can now be completed remotely, especially important during this time of COVID-shutdowns and related caps on casino capacity.

“The in-person registration requirement has unquestionably stunted the growth of Iowa’s online sports betting, which the main engine in every state where online sports betting is legal,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIA.com. “With the requirement in place, Iowa would have never reached its potential as a market. Letting the requirement expire is akin to correcting a mistake, and we expect Iowa to blossom because of that correction.”

The mobile percentage of Iowa’s handle should continue to grow with the new remote sign-up policy. The change has also led to the launch of a few new Heavyweight betting providers, ones that were waiting until industry evolution before they brought their product to the state. William Hill, BetMGM, BetRivers and PointsBet are four that launched in January, following the relaxing of Iowa’s mobile betting sign-up rules.

Moving Into 2021

Iowa, with new providers ready to make their mark, and with the in-person mobile sign-up requirement a thing of the past, should see its standing as a top-10 bet-friendly state continue. The state came in the #7 spot in November and should stay close to, if not at that number for December.

Whether Iowa can leapfrog some states and climb up the ladder is another story altogether. Illinois and Michigan, the states ahead of them, boast a much higher population and sporting fanbase, making the jump up the list unlikely.

But steady, consistent and predictable increases should continue for the Iowa market. 2020 has to be deemed a success – 2021 should, assuming there are no more COVID-shutdowns of sporting leagues across the world, eclipse any records 2020 provided.