DES MOINES — As one industry analyst put it, “Iowa loves football and betting on football.”
Iowans placed more than $2 billion in wagers on sporting events in 2021, according to recently published state figures, eclipsing the $575 million that was legally bet on sports in 2020.
Sports betting in Iowa skyrocketed in 2021 with particular thanks to the expiration of a requirement that new sports bettors first had to register for an account in-person at an Iowa casino, according to analysis from Russ Mitchell, lead analyst for the gaming industry news site PlayIA.com. Sport bettors can now set up an account over a smartphone or computer.
“Significant growth would have come regardless of the registration rules, but the rollback of in-person requirements ultimately was rocket fuel for Iowa’s sportsbooks,” Mitchell said in emailed comments.
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And Iowa’s sports betting numbers are not done growing, he said.
“Iowa’s market hasn’t reached maturity, either. Sportsbooks continue to expand their reach to new customers as potential bettors become more comfortable with the idea of legal sports betting,” Mitchell said. “And as Iowa bettors become more familiar with diverse forms of betting such as in-game wagering, the market should continue to grow.”
Mitchell said the sports betting numbers in December were once again strong, even if they were down slightly from a record November. State figures show Iowans bet $266.5 million on sports in December — almost $8.6 million a day — but down from $287.4 million bet on sports in November, or an average of nearly $9.6 million a day.
He said numbers may continue to dip in January and February after the college football season ends and professional football winds down, but likely will pick back up again in March for the college basketball tournament.
Even though they were down from the previous month, December’s gaming numbers in Iowa were 21 percent higher than the previous December, according to state figures.
And while the state budget year that started in July 2020 was a record year, the budget year that started in July 2021 is running 24 percent higher in revenue and 19 percent higher in attendance at the 19 state-licensed casinos, said Brian Ohorilko, administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
Revenue at all casinos are up at least 10 percent in this fiscal year over the previous fiscal year, and overall casino gambling is also on pace for a record fiscal year, Ohorilko said.