Iowa sportsbooks capitalized on the popularity of March Madness to establish new records last month, generating more than $160m in wagering and marking a welcome return to form following February’s modest dip in handle, according to analysts for PlayIA.
In March, online and retail sportsbooks combined to take in $161.4m in wagers, up 8% from $143.6m in wagers in February and topped the record $149.5m handle in January. The heavy action, much of which came from bets on the NCAA Tournament, 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.
“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.”
Iowa and Drake combined for four games in the NCAA Tournament, which undoubtedly boosted interest in March. And the Iowa and Iowa State women’s basketball teams added five more NCAA Tournament games, which also helped spike interest in college basketball betting.
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 $139.4m 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 bets made online.
“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. That produced $2.3m in receipts from online betting alone.
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, which led to a market-best $3.6m in net receipts from online betting.
FanDuel and BetMGM helped put Diamond Jo in third place with $42.8m in bets, including $37.7m in online bets. Online betting netted $2.9m in receipts . Retail betting generated $22.1m, up from $18.4m in February.
“It will not be easy for William Hill to fend off DraftKings and FanDuel,” 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.”