Outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, no place in America offers the same
scope of gambling options as Iowa.
With 19 commercial casinos, and three more of the tribal variety, the Hawkeye
State’s population of 3.1 million has more gambling venues to choose from per
capita than anywhere else in the nation.
Throw in a state lottery, horseracing and greyhound tracks, bingo halls and
other forms of legal gambling and Iowa is a punter’s paradise.
This page will walk you through everything you need to know about gambling in
Iowa, including a thorough review of the relevant laws, a discussion about
online gambling options in the state, a historical timeline, frequently asked
questions and a wealth of additional resources.
We hope our Guide to Gambling in Iowa proves useful as you prepare to bring
your bankroll to America’s heartland.
As is the case for 47 states – leaving aside Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware
– players in Iowa who prefer wagering online have little recourse in terms of
Simply put, the federal law known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling
Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 is still the law of the land – even if it has
proven to be extremely unpopular. The UIGEA was passed during the “poker boom”,
when everybody and their mother could be found bluffing and building stacks on
sites like PartyPoker, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
The law used a federal statute known as the Wire Act of 1961 – which
prohibited sports betting wagers from being placed via telephone – as precedent
for banning online gambling.
Congressional “leaders” attached the UIGEA to an unrelated bill to support
port security spending, knowing the last minute amendment to shoe in legislation
would never be seriously studied. It passed of course, and when it did,
operating an online gambling enterprise that serves American players became a
Operators like PartyPoker took the hint and withdrew from the U.S. market
almost immediately, but sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and dozens of
small online casinos chose to stick it out. They flouted the law for five years,
allowing millions of Americans to enjoy poker, blackjack, slots and other games
from the comfort of home.
But in April of 2011, the Department of Justice (DOJ) brought the hammer down
on these so-called “rogue operators,” unsealing an indictment against several of
the key executives involved. They also seized domain names and shuttered the
offending sites, suddenly denying access to the major sites for millions of
players in an incident known as “Black Friday.”
Things looked bleak, but by December of 2011 the DOJ released an opinion that
rocked the industry. According to them, the Wire Act only applied to sports
betting, meaning the UIGEA couldn’t be used to ban online poker, casino games
Almost immediately, individual states began exploring their own regulated
online gambling industries, and the three listed above succeeded in passing
legislation to that effect. Today, players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware
can gamble online through fully regulated and licensed sites.
As for Iowa, progress has been all but absent.
The state hasn’t actively considered an online poker/casino bill in five
years, and recent efforts to make daily fantasy sports (DFS) legal have failed.
That leaves players in a state of legal limbo, with only offshore operators
to choose from. Playing on an unregulated site for real money can be a scary
prospect for most, and that’s perfectly understandable given the few bad apples
Thankfully, established sites like the ones above, have filled the niche
admirably, providing dedicated service to American players for several years,
and even decades in some cases. These platforms are well respected for a reason,
as they’ve worked diligently to cultivate a strong reputation with their player
base. By paying out promptly, offering generous bonuses and promotions and
operating with game integrity at the forefront, sites like these are safely used
for real money online gambling millions of times every year.
Not exactly, but it’s definitely not illegal either.
As we just discussed above, Iowa resides in the dreaded “grey zone” when it
comes to online gambling law. In other words, no statutes are on the books to
decide the issue one way or another.
You won’t find any language expressly legalizing online gambling, and the
last serious effort on that front failed back in 2012. At that time, lawmakers
looked into creating a statewide network of online poker sites that would be
linked to the state’s licensed casinos.
That bill was even passed by the Senate, but it ultimately stalled out due to
objections raised by the Republican controlled House.
Today, nothing has changed, so the only guidance found in the Iowa Code would
be under Section 725.9, which covers gambling devices:
“725.9 Possession of gambling devices prohibited — exception for
3. ‘Gambling device’ means a device used or adapted or designed to be used
for gambling and includes, but is not limited to, roulette wheels, klondike
tables, punchboards, faro layouts, keno layouts, numbers tickets, slot machines,
pinball machines, push cards, jar tickets and pull-tabs. However, ‘gambling
device’ does not include an antique slot machine, antique pinball machine, or
any device regularly manufactured and offered for sale and sold as a toy, except
that any use of such a toy, antique slot machine or antique pinball machine for
gambling purposes constitutes unlawful gambling.”
In a strict reading of this law, a talented attorney may be able to argue
that a computer or mobile device outfitted with an online gambling application
has been “adapted … to be used for gambling.”
We wouldn’t agree with that sentiment in the slightest, but stranger things
have happened in the courtroom.
All things considered, online gambling is surely not legal in Iowa (just
yet), while the issue of illegality is less settled. In any event, authorities
are only interested in punishing operators – those collecting big bucks from
online gambling sites without paying taxes – not players.
Are Offshore Gambling Sites Safe?
Most of them are as safe as using Amazon or eBay to shop online.
Unfortunately, those bad apples we mentioned earlier do crop up from time to
time, and their malfeasance tends to attract media attention. For this reason,
many readers may have a bad taste in their mouths when the phrase “offshore
gambling sites” is mentioned.
In reality, instances of fraud or mistreatment of players are few and far
between in the online gambling industry – and for one simple reason. Savvy
operators know the numbers, and with negative expectation games making up the
entirety of their selection, an online casino will always generate healthy
profits simply by running things above board.
There’s just no reason to steal from players, delay payouts or mess with game
integrity when an online casino ran honestly will still pull in piles of cash.
That’s why our recommended sites have been in the business for so long
– two decades in some cases – because players know by now where they’ll be
treated right. The player community is close-knit thanks to the Internet, and
online gambling forums are hotbeds for discussion and “experience swapping.”
When a player is mistreated by a particular site, they may be written off as
an anomaly. But when dozens or even hundreds of players are posting similar
stories-the jig is up.
If you’re concerned about bringing your bankroll to an offshore gambling
site, read up on the player generated reviews found all over the Internet. Shop
around for a few different sources, read as many reviews as you can and exercise
common sense when choosing an online gambling platform.
Can I Get Arrested for Gambling Online in Iowa?
Nope, not to our knowledge anyhow.
A thorough search online for arrests related to online gambling in Iowa
turned up no results whatsoever. As we discussed in the first question, there
just aren’t any laws on the books that a local police department or state gaming
regulator could rely on to charge you for online gambling.
Until the General Assembly introduces a bill to expressly ban the industry,
AND the voters ratify that decision via referendum vote, the law is quite clear
in this regard: cops have no standing to arrest online gamblers.
More Gambling Laws in Iowa
Casino Gambling: (Legal)
Tribal Gambling: (Legal)
Horse Racing Betting: (Legal)
Dog Racing Betting: (Legal)
Daily Fantasy Sports: (Illegal)
Charitable Gaming: (Legal – under certain circumstances)
Social Gambling: (Legal – under certain circumstances)
As the wave of green above clearly shows, Iowa is one of the most gambling
friendly states in all of America. Currently, players can take part in casino
gambling (both commercial and tribal), poker rooms, horse and dog racing, the
state lottery, bingo halls and charity/social games.
In fact, the only forms of gambling that are expressly forbidden in Iowa are
sportsbooks and daily fantasy sports (DFS), but even the latter has been
proposed for legalization twice over the last two years.
As you’ll learn in the History of Gambling in Iowa timeline below, it wasn’t
always this way, as the state’s original Constitution simply banned gambling in
That prohibition lasted for 12 decades, leaving entire generations of Iowans
in the cold when it comes to wagering on games of chance or skill. But
eventually, a 1972 proposed by the General Assembly and passed by voters via the
referendum process, repealed that portion of the Constitution. At the time,
lawmakers sought to relax restrictions for senior citizens who enjoyed bingo
nights as recreational gambling.
But the 1972 repeal opened the proverbial floodgates, and by 1989 Iowa was
home to bingo halls, pari-mutuel betting on races, a state lottery and even
miniature casinos setup on so called “excursion boats” anchored in the waters of
the Mississippi River. The final piece to the puzzle was added in 1994 when
lawmakers and voters combined to legalize slot machines and casino gambling
within the racetrack setting.
With land based “racinos” now operating alongside the riverboat casinos, it
was only a matter of time before full-scale Las Vegas style resort casinos were
authorized. That move came in 2007, and today, Iowa is home to an astounding 22
The key law covering gambling in Iowa can be found under Section 725.7 of the
Iowa Code, which provides the following definition of illegal gambling (emphasis
“1. Except as permitted in chapters 99B [bingo] and 99D [racetracks], a
person shall not do any of the following:
a. Participate in a game for any sum of money or other property of any
b. Make any bet.
c. For a fee, directly or indirectly, give or accept anything of value
to be wagered or to be transmitted or delivered for a wager to be placed within
or without the state of Iowa.
d. For a fee, deliver anything of value which has been received outside
the enclosure of a racetrack licensed under chapter 99D to be placed as wagers
in the pari-mutuel pool or other authorized systems of wagering.
e. Engage in bookmaking.”
As you can see, this statute references two other sections of the Iowa Code –
Chapters 99B and 99D – both of which provide broad protections to gamblers.
Essentially, gambling is only illegal in Iowa when players place wagers outside
of a licensed bingo hall, racino or casino.
With dozens of these venues scattered throughout the state, gamblers have
plenty of options to choose from, making violations of the gambling law quite
Another interesting law on the books is Chapter 99B-1, which provides clear
distinctions between games of chance and games of skill:
“15. ‘Game of chance’ means a game whereby the result is determined by chance
and the player in order to win aligns objects or balls in a prescribed pattern
or order or makes certain color patterns appear and specifically includes but is
not limited to the game defined as bingo. Game of chance does not include a slot
16. ‘Game of skill’ means a game whereby the result is determined by the
player directing or throwing objects to designated areas or targets, or by
maneuvering water or an object into a designated area, or by maneuvering a
dragline device to pick up particular items, or by shooting a gun or rifle.”
Interestingly enough, Iowa lawmakers classified daily fantasy sports (DFS) as
a game of chance during recent deliberations of regulation.
Finally, you need to be 21 years or older to gamble legally in Iowa, per
Section 725.19 of the Iowa Code:
“1. Any person under the age of twenty-one years shall not make or attempt to
make a gambling wager, except as permitted under chapter 99B. A person who
violates this subsection commits a scheduled violation under section 805.8C,
2. A person who knowingly permits a person under the age of twenty-one years
to make or attempt to make a gambling wager, except as permitted under chapter
99B, is guilty of a simple misdemeanor.”
Gambling Venues in Iowa
For a state that spent more than 120 years as a gambler’s “no man’s land,”
and one with a small population of just over 3 million, Iowa boasts a
surprisingly wide variety of casinos.
According to the Iowa Gaming Association, the Hawkeye State is home to 22
casino venues – with 19 operated as commercial entities and three more under
The listing below includes need to know information on all 19 venues, so take
a look to find your favorite gambling hotspot below:
1) Ameristar Casino
2200 River Road
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
(712) 328 – 8888
Slot Machines: 1,500
Table Games: 23
2) Catfish Bend Casino
3001 Winegard Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
(866) 792 – 9948
Slot Machines: 626
Table Games: 25
3) Diamond Jo Dubuque
301 Bell St
Dubuque, IA 52001
(563) 690 – 4800
Slot Machines: 995
Table Games: 19
4) Diamond Jo Worth
777 Diamond Jo Lane
Northwood, IA 50459
(877) 323 – 5566
Slot Machines: 1,010
Table Games: 31
5) Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort
1415 Grand Falls Blvd
Larchwood, IA 51241
(712) 777 – 7777
Slot Machines: 750
Table Games: 28
6) Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City
111 3rd St
Sioux City, IA 51101
(844) 222 – ROCK
Slot Machines: 839
Table Games: 26
7) Harrah’s Council Bluffs
1 Harrah’s Blvd
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
(712) 329 – 6000
Slot Machines: 547
Table Games: 19
8) Horseshoe Council Bluffs
2701 23rd Ave
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
(712) 323 – 2500
Slot Machines: 1.403
Table Games: 51
9) Isle Casino & Hotel Bettendorf
1777 Isle Parkway
Bettendorf, IA 52722
(563) 441 – 7000
Slot Machines: 1,000
Table Games: 19
10) Isle Casino & Hotel Waterloo
777 Isle of Capri Blvd
Waterloo, IA 50701
(877) ISLE – WIN
Slot Machines: 948
Table Games: 25
11) Casino Queen Marquette
100 Anti-Monopoly St
Marquette, IA 52158
(563) 873 – 3531
Slot Machines: 534
Table Games: 8
12) Lakeside Casino & Hotel
777 Casino Drive
Osceola, IA 50213
(877) 477 – 5253
Slot Machines: 900
Table Games: 12
13) Q Casino
1855 Greyhound Park Road
Dubuque, IA 52001
(563) 582 – 3647
Slot Machines: 883
Table Games: 23
14) Prairie Meadows
One Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009
(515) 967 – 1000
Slot Machines: 2,000
Table Games: 40
15) Rhythm City Casino Resort
7077 Elmore Ave
Davenport, IA 52807
(563) 328 – 8000
Slot Machines: 795
Table Games: 31
16) Riverside Casino & Golf Resort
3184 Highway 22
Riverside, IA 52327
(319) 648 – 1234
Slot Machines: 977
Table Games: 46
17) Wild Rose Clinton
777 Wild Rose Drive
Clinton, IA 52732
(800) 457 – 9975
Slot Machines: 554
Table Games: 9
18) Wild Rose Emmetsburg
777 Main Street
Emmetsburg, IA 50536
(877) 720 – 7673
Slot Machines: 500
Table Games: 11
19) Wild Rose Jefferson
777 Wild Rose Drive
Jefferson, IA 50129
(515) 386 – 7777
Slot Machines: 525
Table Games: 12
1) Meskwaki Bingo & Casino
1504 305th Street
Tama, IA 52339
(800) 728 – 4263
Slot Machines: 1,300
Table Games: 30
2) Blackbird Bend Casino
17214 210th St
Onawa, IA 51040
Slot Machines: 400
Table Games: 22
3) Meskwaki Bingo & Casino
1500 330th St
Sloan, IA 51055
Slot Machines: 650
Table Games: 20
History of Gambling in Iowa
Having been admitted to the Union as the 29th state, Iowa ratifies its original constitution, which includes Article IV, Section 29 to prohibit all forms of gambling: “No lottery shall be authorized by this state, nor shall the sale of lottery tickets be allowed.” The full-scale gambling ban would remain in place for the next 126 years.
The Iowa General Assembly ratifies Chapter 1141, Section 1 of the 1972 Iowa Acts, thereby repealing the century old gambling prohibition. This move, which came amidst a legislative effort to let senior citizens in the state play bingo without fear of breaking the law, was soon approved by voters.
With the ban on gambling finally removed, the General Assembly approves Chapter 153 of the 1973 Iowa Acts, which allows licensed individuals and organizations to conduct games of chance like bingo and raffles.
Pari-mutuel betting on horse and dog racing is approved via Chapter 187 of the 1983 Iowa Acts. 1989 Iowa Acts ch. 67.
The Iowa State Lottery is created through the passage of Chapter 33 of the 1985 Iowa Acts.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) is passed by Congress, allowing federally recognized tribes to operate commercial casinos on reservation lands.
Casino style gambling on “excursion boats,” which are anchored in the waters of the Mississippi River, is legalized when Chapter 67 of the 1989 Iowa Acts is passed.
Iowa’s Department of Inspections and Appeals creates three tribal gaming compacts with the Governor, paving the way for the Winnebago, the Omaha, the Sac and Fox tribes to launch their first casinos that same year.
With the addition of Chapter 1021 to the 1994 Iowa Acts, pari-mutuel betting parlors are permitted to operate slot machines.
The General Assembly moves to expand Iowa’s casino industry beyond excursion boats by allowing casino style gambling to be held in any qualified “man made structure.” Over the next decade, more than a dozen casinos crop up across the state.
Iowa Gambling FAQ
Whenever we digest a healthy portion of new knowledge, we always find
ourselves asking questions down the road. Inquiry is an essential part of the
learning process, and we know you probably have a few questions of your own.
With that in mind, we tried to anticipate what readers might be wondering
about with a few frequently asked questions about gambling in Iowa. Read on to
see if your query has been answered:
In a state like Iowa, where there seems to be a casino in every city, are people allowed to host private poker games and the like?
They sure are, thanks to Section 99B of the Iowa Code which includes several
provisions to protect “social gambling.”
Under that law, there are two forms of social gambling to consider: licensed
The licensed variety covers venues like bars, pubs and community clubs that
must obtain permission from local authorities before setting up a social game.
According to the law, the following restrictions are in place:
“C. Games Permitted – Wagers and Losses.
The games allowed under social gambling include poker, pinochle, pitch, gin
rummy, bridge, euchre, hearts, cribbage, dominoes, checkers, chess, backgammon,
pool, and darts.
A person shall not win or lose more than $50 in cash or consideration during
a 24-hour period.
D. Sports Pools.
Sports pools are also allowed but only on licensed sponsor premises where
liquor orbeer is sold. The maximum wager in a pool is limited to $5 and the
maximum winning prize is limited to $500 per game.”
As you can see, basically any game played in your average bar is eligible for
licensed social gambling, so wagers on poker, darts and pool are all acceptable.
In fact, sports bars and related venues can even offer small pools on things
like NCAA March Madness or the Super Bowl – provided the wagers are limited to
$5 and prizes to $500.
Of course, proprietors of non-casino venues aren’t free to turn their
establishments into Las Vegas lite, so the following casino style games are off
“E. Illegal Social Games.
With the exception of poker, games customarily in a gambling casino for which
the house provides a banker, dealer, or croupier or for which specially designed
tables are required are illegal social games.
The illegal games include punchboard, pushcard, pulltab, slot machines,
craps, chuck-a-luck, roulette, klondike, blackjack, chemin de fer, baccarat,
faro, equality, and three-card monte.”
When it comes to unlicensed social gambling – or games played amongst friends
and family in the privacy of one’s home – Iowa law is similarly progressive and
“A. Private Social Gambling.
Except in instances where the location or circumstance of a game is regulated
under Iowa Code chapter 99B, individuals may participate in gambling if a bona
fide social relationship exists among the participants.
B. Monetary Consideration.
A participant in an unlicensed social gambling game shall not win nor lose
more than $50 in a 24-hour period.
C. Unlawful Wagers.
A wager is unlawful if the wager involves the outcome of an athletic contest
or event and the wager is made by a coach, official, player, or contestant of a
school, educational institution, or interscholastic athletic organization
participating in the contest or event.”
Under these private social gambling statutes, players are free to host home
poker games and such so long as they maintain a genuine relationship outside of
the game. In other words, you can invite your old frat buddies over for a Texas
Hold ’em tournament, but not a bunch of strangers solicited through social
Other rules about private social gambling limit the stakes to $50 per player,
while underground sportsbooks are strictly prohibited.
Finally, the same list of outlawed casino style games applies to private
social games, so as long as there are no roulette tables in the kitchen, you
should be fine.
I remember something about the Iowa Senate passing an online poker bill a few years back… but it’s still unregulated here if I’m not mistaken?
Your memory serves you well as the Iowa Senate did indeed vote to authorize
online poker back in 2012. Contained within a wider legislative package that
sought to relax the casino approval referendum process, the online poker
proposal sought to create an “intrastate network” of online poker providers.
Those providers would’ve been linked with the state’s licensed casino
operators, similar in fashion to the system currently succeeding in spades in
The bill worked its way through the necessary committees in early 2012,
before the full Senate voted 29 to 20 in favor of passage in March of that year.
Unfortunately, partisan divides in the House left the bill to languish, and it
ultimately died off without ever receiving a vote.
In an interview with PokerNews conducted in 2014, Iowa casino industry
lobbyist Matt Eide offered a stark appraisal of the political winds driving
online poker passage in the state:
“Although a bill authorizing online poker passed the Iowa Senate in 2011, the
Republican controlled House does not want to advance this type of legislation.”
In the wake of the House failure, Wes Ehrecke – who serves as President and
CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association – offered the following statement in the
organization’s Gaming Industry Forecast for Casino Enterprise Management:
“No discussion in the 2014 legislative session will take place to allow
authorization of online intrastate poker to be played via casino portals.
Rather, the industry will closely watch the introduction of iGaming in New
Jersey and Delaware, plus Internet poker in Nevada. This will be an opportunity
to learn what is working or not, including their regulations, compacts with
other states, etc., and decide on suggested language for a bill to consider in
That “opportunity to learn” has extended into 2017, however, as the Iowa
General Assembly appears to have moved on from the online poker issue. No
further efforts have been made to push a similar bill forward, and as of today,
Iowa remains stuck in the same legal “grey zone” afflicting 47 states.
What about daily fantasy sports (DFS), has any legislative progress been made on that front?
That all depends on how you define the word “progress.”
The state’s first crack at regulating daily fantasy sports (DFS) occurred in
2016, but that effort failed to get off the ground in terms of committee votes.
The General Assembly decided to take another shot in early 2017, introducing
a bill known as House File 613, which would classify the games as gambling and
not skill-based wagers. This runs counter to the game of skill argument put
forth by major operators like DraftKings and FanDuel over the years, but both
sites have come out in support of Iowa’s bill.
State Senator Jeff Danielson (D-Waterloo) spoke with Iowa City/Cedar Rapids
newspaper in February of this year to discuss the impetus for daily fantasy
sports (DFS) legislation:
“I’m for freedom, economic opportunity, and I believe fantasy sports are
something that Iowans have come to accept. They do it. Most were unaware that it
(is) not legal. … So I’m in favor of legalizing it.”
Representative Guy Vander Linden(R-Oskaloosa) also talked to The Gazette to
outline the General Assembly’s current approach to daily fantasy sports (DFS):
“We’ve been playing with this for a number of years. We pretty much now all
agree that we’re going to treat it (as) gambling, first of all.
We’re going to treat it like all other gambling. We’re going to regulate it
through the Racing and Gaming (Commission). We’re going to tax it. People get
out of line, we will do away with it.
We have gambling in Iowa. (DFS) is just another form.”
But in a repeat of last year, the most recent daily fantasy sports (DFS)
package was shelved by April.
That means DraftKings and FanDuel remain illegal under current Iowan law, and
both sites still restrict access to IP addresses based in the state.
For now, you’re out of luck on the daily fantasy sports (DFS) front in Iowa.
With that said, the clear interest shown by some members of the General Assembly
over the last two years certainly bodes well for future progress down the road.
If you’ve made it this far through our page, chances are high you’d like to
learn all you can about gambling laws in Iowa.
We urge you to continue your studies by taking advantage of the three links
below, which direct you to useful resources that provide a clearer picture of
the state’s thriving gambling industry:
This link takes you to the Legislative Guide to Gambling in Iowa, an
invaluable resource for anybody who wants to know the ins and outs of every law
on the books. Originally written in 1967, the Guide has been continually updated
The Iowa Gaming Association (IGA) is your one stop shop for all information
on the state’s gambling industry. This isn’t a government organization that will
bury you in legal statutes and other paperwork, as the IGA independently
represents the gambling industry’s interests.
When one considers the gambling friendly climate that dominates Iowa, home to
no less than 22 land based casinos, the state would seem to be ripe for online
gambling reform. Indeed, an online poker bill was approved by the Iowa Senate in
2011, only to be killed off by a Republican controlled House.
Alas, no further progress has been made in the Hawkeye State when it comes to
online gambling rights. That can always change, however, as Iowa’s referendum
based approach to lawmaking ensures that voters wield their share of the power.
The gambling laws in any jurisdiction or region around the world are subject
to change. We’ve strived to ensure that the information on this page is
accurate, but you should always check your local laws before engaging in any
form of gambling activity.
The information found on Gamblingsites.org is for entertainment purposes only. It is a purely informational website that does not accept wagers of any kind. Although certain pages within Gamblingsites.org feature or promote other online websites where users are able to place wagers, we encourage all visitors to confirm the wagering and/or gambling regulations that are applicable in their local jurisdiction (as gambling laws may vary in different states, countries and provinces).
Gamblingsites.org uses affiliates links from some of the sportsbooks/casinos it promotes and reviews, and we may receive compensation from those particular sportsbooks/casinos in certain circumstances. Gamblingsites.org does not promote or endorse any form of wagering or gambling to users under the age of 18. If you believe you have a gambling problem, please visit BeGambleAware or GAMCARE for information and help.