Iowa sportsbooks capitalised on the popularity of March Madness to set a fresh round of records with more than $160 million in wagering, a welcome result following February’s modest dip in handle.
“Iowa was one of the few legal sports betting jurisdictions to actually improve per-day betting in February, so it is no surprise that sportsbooks set new highs in March,” said Jessica Welman, an analyst for PlayIA.com. “With new operators coming online and the in-person registration requirement long gone, the Hawkeye State is well-positioned ahead of the inevitable summer slowdown.”
In March, online and retail sportsbooks combined to take in $161.4m in wagers in March, according to official data released Thursday. That is up 8% from $143.6 million in wagers in February and topped the record $149.5m handle in January. The heavy action helped Iowa set records for per-day betting average and revenue, too. Per-day betting hit $5.2m in the 31 days of March, which was up from the record $5.1m bet per day during the 28 days of February.
The record month resulted in $13.5m in net receipts for sportsbooks, which was up from $7.7m in February and broke the previous high of $11.3m set in January. In all, March’s bets yielded $908,011 in state taxes, yet another new high.
Four men’s and women’s teams combined to play in eight NCAA tournament games, undoubtedly boosting interest. But the main catalyst for Iowa’s growth over the first quarter of 2021 has been the removal of in-person registration requirements for online betting in January. Online betting captured $139.4 million in bets, or 86.3% of the state’s overall handle, in March. Compare that to December, the last month of in-person registration when 74.4% of a much smaller overall handle came from online bets.
“Three months after removing the in-person registration requirements, Iowa has set new highs in wagering per day in each month, even bucking a national trend of declining bets in February,” said Dustin Gouker, analyst for PlayIA.com. “Obviously the key reason for that is that registration is easier than it was last year, and that has opened the door to new customers across the state. Those customers have responded enthusiastically, and the success of Iowa and Drake this season gave Iowans added incentive to engage with a sportsbook.”
William Hill — which partners in Iowa with Prairie Meadows, Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs, Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, Isle of Capri Bettendorf, Lakeside, and Harrah’s Council Bluffs — narrowly led the market with $49.5m in retail and online handle, which included $43m in online wagers in March.
But the two largest sportsbooks in the country continue to gain ground in Iowa. The Wild Rose license, which is anchored by DraftKings but includes BetRivers, came in second with a $44.3m total handle and topped online betting with $43.7m. FanDuel and BetMGM helped put Diamond Jo in third place with $42.8m in bets, including $37.7m in online bets.
“It will not be easy for William Hill to fend off DraftKings and FanDuel,” Ms. Welman said. “The two largest sportsbooks in the country have brought a lot of marketing know-how to the state, and that has led to continued gains. Ultimately, though, bettors are the beneficiaries as they all compete for attention.”