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US – Iowa sportsbooks bounce back for the first time since March

By - 13 September 2021

Iowa bettors boosted their wagering in August more than 20 per cent from July, the first month-over-month gain in betting volume since March’s record-setting month. August’s uptick to more than $108 million was nearly enough for the state to reach $1bn in wagering since Jan. 1, a noteworthy milestone ahead of what will likely be the busiest four months of the year.

“Futures betting and a handful of college games are enough to move the needle. That’s how important football is to the sports betting industry,” said Eric Ramsey, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIA.com. “August is a precursor for what should be the busiest stretch of the year. Optimistic projections for the last four months put the state past $1.7bn in wagers for the year.”

Iowa’s online and retail sportsbooks accepted $108.4m in bets in August, up 21.1 per cent from $88.9m in July, according to official data released Monday. Bettors placed $3.5m per day over the 31 days of August, up from $2.9m per day over the 31 days of July.

Despite the volume increase, operator revenue fell 14.3 per cent to $6.6m from $7.7m in July, resulting in $486,608 in tax revenue for the state.

Year-over-year, August’s wagering was up 115 per cent compared with $50.3m in August 2020. Meanwhile, revenue grew 120 per cent in August from $3m in August 2020. Iowa sportsbooks have now generated $997m in bets since 1 January, falling just short of reaching $1bn in wagering for the year.

“As slow as the summer months have been, the growth over the last year in Iowa remains remarkable,” said Russ Mitchell, lead analyst for PlayIA.com. “Nearly $1 billion in eight months represents a significant jump forward, and that growth should only accelerate over the next four months.”

Baseball led the way in August. But the return of college football, even if for just a handful of games, was a significant reason why volume increased in August.

September will show even greater gains, though. A full college football schedule and the return of the NFL will always bring a boom in sports betting. But Saturday’s showdown between No. 9 Iowa State and No. 10 Iowa — the first time a Cy-Hawk game featured both teams in the AP Top 10 — was something altogether different for Iowa sportsbooks.

“A game that creates that kind of excitement is rare, sending fans on both sides pouring into the state’s online and retail sportsbooks,” Ramsey said. “That made it a unique opportunity for the industry to reach college football fans all across Iowa, including those who have never placed a bet before.”

In August, $96.1m in bets were made online, representing 88.6 per cent of the state’s handle. Retail betting accounted for the remaining $12.4m.

William Hill topped the online market with $34.8m in online wagers, which yielded $229,427 in net receipts. DraftKings was second with $29.9m in online wagering, generating a market-best $2.3m in revenue.

Ameristar Council Bluffs topped the retail market with $3.6m in wagers, netting $643,585 in revenue. Diamond Jo Worth was second with $3.4m in bets, producing $246,324 in revenue.

“Operators have been jockeying for market share since the beginning of the year, but the real test comes with the beginning of the football season,” Mitchell said. “If operators put in place a solid strategy for reaching out to customers over the summer, the fruits of that labor will start to come in September.”

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