Official: Sports betting continues to evolve in Iowa, more growth expected in South Dakota

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Two years after becoming officially legal, sports betting continues to grow in Iowa. 

Casinos in Iowa first started accepting sports wagers in August 2019, where a total of $8.5 million was handled by a total of 14 casinos. Fast forward to September 2021, the state recorded more than $210 million in sports wagers handled by 19 casinos.  

Brian Ohorilko, the Administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, said the sports betting industry is “evolving very, very quickly.” 

“The one thing that we’ve learned is that it’s very popular,” Ohorilko told KELOLAND News. “Customers, patrons of the casinos and just citizens of Iowa really enjoy participating in sports and they’re doing so at a high level.” 

South Dakota allowed customers to place their first bets on Sept. 7. In the first 22 days, four Deadwood casinos offering sports wagering reported a total handle of just more than $443,365.32. Officials in South Dakota are hoping to draw $6.1 million in direct revenue from sports betting. 

“The first few months we opened we saw a handle that was just a fraction of what we saw last month,” Ohorilko said. “Sportsbooks do well during football season.” 

Ohorilko said he expects South Dakota’s numbers to continue to increase dramatically through football and basketball season. 

“I would expect South Dakota to continue to see growth,” Ohorilko said. “As customers start to learn what sports betting is and they develop their patterns in terms of when they’d visit a casino to wager on sports.” 

Ohorilko said South Dakota’s Commission on Gaming “did their due-diligence.” He said as regulators each state agency regulating sports wager have developed close relationships. So far, Ohorilko said “match-fixing” hasn’t been a problem and although Iowa is offering sports wager statewide, he considered Iowa’s start similar to South Dakota’s start. 

From August 2019 to December 2020, the only way to place a sports bet was at a casino or for an in-person signup for a mobile account with a casino. 

“That approach really allowed for all operators to be on the same level footing,” Ohorilko said. “There wasn’t a situation where a big company could come in and spend millions of dollars in advertising and take control of the market. It allowed customers to get used to sports betting.” 

But starting in 2021, Iowa’s in-person registration requirement went away and Iowa had its largest growth of new bettors.

“That’s when we saw a number of sports betting companies, who had sat on the sidelines and monitored Iowa’s market, enter the market,” Ohorilko said. “Our market size doubled in terms of the number of operators.”  

Online sports betting has also grown in Iowa, 88% of the sports bets placed in September 2021 were placed over the internet. He added the technology with online sports wagering allows casinos the power to set daily wager limits and deposit limits for players.

“We saw operators compete fiercely for customers,” said Ohorilko, who added there’s been additional revenue ejected into the state economy from media advertisements. “It was a really good time to be a customer in the state of Iowa.” 

Ohorilko said the original goal of legalizing sports betting in Iowa was to allow “people who were wagering illegally to bet on sports legally in a regulated market.” While it remains very popular, Ohorilko said sports betting doesn’t drive “a considerable” amount of revenue for casinos. 

Despite the small portion of total revenue for casinos, Ohorilko said he’s curious to see how the industry continues to change. He expects when March Madness 2022 rolls around, Iowa will look at setting another sports wager handling record.

“Every month is something new,” Ohorilko said. “It’ll be interesting to see how this market develops through March 2022.”

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