Guide to Iowa Gambling & Online Casinos
The gambling landscape in the United States continues to shift in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s reversal of PASPA in 2018. The thing is, gambling is regulated at the state level, which means that different rules apply in different states. What is legal in Illinois or New York may not necessarily be legal in Iowa. As such, Iowans who want to participate in gambling activities need to know what they can and can’t do. This guide will examine and describe the rules and regulations that apply to gambling in Iowa, including sports betting, poker, the lottery, and Iowa online casinos, which list you can see below.
Gambling In Iowa
Iowa gambling laws are relatively liberal, but they are nowhere near as gambler-friendly as they are in many other states. To understand the current climate, we must go back to the early 1970s when gambling was constitutionally banned. In 1971, a Catholic priest was arrested in North Buena Vista for organizing a picnic that featured charitable casino games. This incident created such a high degree of public outrage that residents voted to overturn the prohibition.
This resulted in the legalization of charitable gambling, including raffles, bingo, and low-stakes games of chance, as you might find at modern social Iowa online casinos. This triggered major changes that would slowly occur over the next several years.
1983 saw the introduction of pari-mutuel horse and dog racing as well as the creation of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. This commission is still the regulatory body in Iowa and is tasked with overseeing gambling operations and activities in the state. The next significant change happened in 1985 when the state lottery was launched. Then, in 1989, the state approved off-track betting, which allows Iowans to bet on horse races that take place outside of Iowa.
1991 was a landmark year. While land-based casinos were still prohibited, the laws were amended to allow riverboat casinos. This opened the door to land-based establishments. In 1992, three Native American casinos opened their doors. However, lawmakers placed a $5 per bet limit on players, and the casinos were not able to operate 24/7. That changed in 1994 when the $5 bet limit was removed and casinos were legally permitted to operate round the clock.
There were a few other changes that came as a result of several counties approving gambling referendums. In particular, 19 new casinos were given permission to open on land and compete with the Native casinos and riverboats. Of course, one of the biggest moments in Iowa's online gambling history came in 2018 when PASPA was overturned. Iowa was quick to take advantage of this, and regulated online sports betting was up and running by 2019.
Even though the legalization of sports betting was a step in the right direction, there was still the matter of sorting out the rules for Iowa online casinos. As of late 2023, Iowa online gambling laws do not allow for Iowa real money online casino sites. The only forms of gambling that Iowans can legally participate in online are daily fantasy sports, sports betting, and games of skill. Unfortunately, poker does not qualify in Iowa as a game of skill, although the state is home to a multitude of land-based poker rooms.
For Iowans who are waiting to play at a real money online casino legally, Iowa lawmakers don’t seem to be in much of a rush. In the meantime, those who are at least 21 are welcome to play casino games at any of the 20+ casino gaming venues that operate throughout the state. Those who want to play casino games for fun also have several top-tier social Iowa online gambling sites to choose from.
We love roulette and are pleased to have so many great legal options for playing it in Iowa. Seeing how the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission regulates the casinos and games, you know that all of the 20-plus Iowa casinos that feature roulette run a straight game. The biggest problem with playing roulette for real money is that you can only do it at a licensed land-based venue. Playing online roulette for real money is still illegal and will remain that way until Iowa online casinos are legalized.
True fans of online roulette games can take comfort in knowing that they can legally enjoy all of their most beloved variants at social Iowa online casinos. Social casinos aren’t considered as gambling sites because players don’t need to risk real money. They offer the exact same games from the same providers as you would find at any first-rate real-money casinos.
Iowa has over 25 licensed casinos and blackjack is legal at all of them. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is tasked with overseeing the venues and all of the blackjack games they offer. This ensures that all games are 100% fair. In addition to the many live blackjack games, many Iowa casinos offer electronic versions that let you play against the machine or a live dealer. Some of these gaming terminals let you play multiple blackjack games simultaneously.
Sadly, lawmakers have yet to legalize Iowa online casinos, which means Iowans can’t play real-money blackjack online. They can, however, play for fun at our favorite social Iowa online casinos. These blackjack games are legal because they don’t involve the use of real money. They provide an ideal opportunity to learn many blackjack variants without risking anything.
Poker exploded in popularity in the early 2000s and it continues to attract more and more players. There has always been a lot of debate as to whether poker is a game of skill or if it is a game of luck. While players do indeed need to get lucky, there is a great deal of skill involved.
Poker is legal in Iowa and several of the state’s cardrooms offer trendy variants like Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha. Stakes typically start at $1/$2 and work their way up, which makes the game appealing to a wide range of budgets. Unfortunately, playing poker online for real money is prohibited.
Like many other classic games, poker has produced many versions. Some of these versions are known as casino poker games and they are offered at most social Iowa online casinos as well as land-based venues. As opposed to traditional poker, in which players play against each other, casino poker games pit the players against the dealer. Instead of winning a community pot, casino poker winnings are determined by a paytable. Some of the most popular casino poker games are:
- Caribbean Stud
- Pai Gow
- Three Card Poker
- Casino Hold ‘Em
- Let It Ride
If online casinos become legal in the Hawkeye State, you can be sure that the best online casino Iowa has to offer will have loads of exciting casino poker games. It will also bring the state closer to legalizing online poker rooms. In 2023, yet another bill to legalize online poker failed to garner enough support.
Slot machines are hands-down the biggest attractions at online and land-based casinos all over the world. They are the easiest gambling games to play as they require absolutely no skill. You simply place your bet, hit the spin button, and wait a couple of seconds for the result. Unlike most other casino games, slots give players a chance to win huge sums of money. This is especially true of progressive jackpot slots, which can pay out jackpots worth millions of dollars. Slot machines were legalized in 1989.
There are thousands of slot machines scattered throughout the 20+ licensed retail casinos in Iowa. Social and sweepstakes Iowa online casinos also feature a seemingly endless number of slot games. These games come in a full spectrum of themes and they offer exciting features like respins, cluster pays, cascading symbols, and bonus games.
Assuming that the Hawkeye State eventually makes it legal to play at an online casino, Iowa players can look forward to playing their favorite mobile slot games for real money. Until then, they can only play slots at licensed land-based casinos and social Iowa online casinos.
Land Based Casinos
As mentioned, the first riverboat casinos were established in 1991. This ultimately led to the opening of three land-based Native American casinos. Today, there are four tribal casinos which are:
- Blackbeard Bend Casino
- Prairie Flower Casino
- Winna Vegas Casino
- Meskwaki Bingo Casino
Soon after, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission started issuing licenses to other operators. As of 2023, Iowa has 23 state-licensed casinos, including:
- Isle Casino Hotel in Waterloo
- Lakeside Hotel Casino in Osceola
- Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Clinton
- Casino Queen in Marquette
- Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington
- Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque
- Q Casino in Dubuque
- Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Jefferson
- Grand Falls Casino Resort in Larchwood
- Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Emmetsburg
- Prairie Meadows Casino & Hotel in Altoona
- Ameristar Casino Hotel in Council Bluffs
- Harrah’s Council Bluffs in Council Bluffs
- Horseshoe Council Bluffs in Council Bluffs
- Rhythm City Casino in Davenport
- Bettendorf Casino in Davenport
- Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside
- Argosy Casino in Sioux City
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City
- Diamond Jo Casino in Northwood
If and when it becomes legal to play at an Iowa online casino for real money, the site would most likely have to share licenses with these land-based operators. This is how it has been done in other states that have legal online gambling. Hopefully, Iowans won’t have to wait too long.