Fueled by a surge in mobile sports wagering, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission reported a record sports betting handle for the fourth consecutive month Friday as the Hawkeye State topped $100 million for the first time since going live in August 2019.
The $104.8 million in wagers placed across Iowa in December was an increase of 20.2% compared to the $87.2 million in November. The IRGC reported a mobile sports wagering handle of nearly $78.1 million, an uptick of more than 25% on November’s total of $62.4 million. That mobile handle alone would stand as Iowa’s fourth-highest overall single-month handle.
The record handle, however, did not result in a record revenue haul for sportsbooks as bettors fared better than they had in previous months. The books’ win rate was 7.19%, well below holds in October (11.11%) and November (9.34%). Operators still had a good month, generating more than $7.5 million in revenue — the third-highest monthly total the IRGC has ever reported.
That resulted in adding $508,748 to the state’s tax coffers. Iowa’s sportsbooks had a cumulative handle of more than $575 million for 2020, generating more than $41.6 million in revenue and nearly $2.86 million in taxes for the state.
An unexpected surge in mobile wagering
Iowa’s entry into the $100 million club came earlier than expected. December was the final month bettors in the state had to register in-person at a sportsbook to gain access to mobile sports wagering since the in-person provision expired with the ending of the calendar year.
Thus, the expectation was the big jump in mobile betting would take place (and it still conceivably could) in January as opposed to December.
Also helpful to the record handle was both of the state’s flagship universities performing well in popular sports.
The Iowa State Cyclones had a late-season surge in football that propelled them to the Big 12 Championship game, while the Iowa Hawkeyes are currently ranked No. 5 in The Associated Press Top 25 college basketball poll. Iowa State reaching its conference title game gave sportsbooks a bonus high-profile offering, while Iowa basketball has a marquee draw of its own in star forward Luka Garza to go with playing in the Big Ten, the nation’s deepest conference for college basketball this season.
The rising tide of competition lifts mobile boats
A second key component of the mobile surge is Iowa bettors having more high-profile mobile options. While BetRivers and BetMGM entered Iowa in January to further crowd the field, online titans DraftKings and FanDuel have established footholds and reported significant increases in their respective mobile handles each month during this four-month surge in record handle.
December was no different as FanDuel — operating through Diamond Jo casinos in Dubuque and Worth — posted a mobile handle of nearly $13.5 million that represented 17.2% of the mobile market. The handle was an increase of 48.9% from November and more than treble its initial mobile handle of $4.22 million in September.
DraftKings, which has a mobile presence through Wild Rose casinos in Clinton, Emmetsburg, and Jefferson, reported more than $18.7 million in mobile wagers placed, though its market share dipped slightly to 23.99%. The handle was an increase of 24.2% month over month as Wild Rose in Jefferson cleared $10 million for the second straight month with a handle of more than $12.8 million. The December handle is nearly double the $9.88 million DraftKings reported in September when FanDuel made its entry.
William Hill, though, continues to lead the pack in convincing fashion. It is still too early to determine if its most recent expansion into Council Bluffs to reach bettors in the western part of the state will have a substantial knock-on effect for mobile wagering, but its six properties had a combined mobile handle of more than $33.6 million in December and accrued 43.09% of all mobile handle — down from November’s 43.21%, but a far slower erosion considering it had 51.84% of the mobile market in September.
That is an increase of 24.76% from November as its flagship Prairie Meadows alone recorded a mobile handle of nearly $20.85 million last month. That set an all-time high at that location for the now Caesars-owned sportsbook, which had a mobile handle of $20.26 million in February 2020.
The $22.5 million in overall handle was also an all-time monthly best for Prairie Meadows, which cleared $20 million in total handle for the fourth time overall.
Other news and notes
The increases in mobile handles resulted in three casinos — Prairie Meadows, Wild Rose in Jefferson ($13.04 million) and Diamond Jo in Worth ($10.94 million) — surpassing $10 million in overall handle. Diamond Jo in Dubuque came close to reaching eight figures, posting $9.61 million worth of wagers placed.
Another four casinos — Isle Casino in Waterloo ($7.47 million), Riverside Casino ($6.78 million), Horseshoe Casino ($5.92 million), and Ameristar II ($5.87 million) — cleared $5 million in overall handle, with the handle of Ameristar II exclusively retail. Six of the state’s 18 casinos surpassed $1 million in retail handle in December, paced by Diamond Jo in Worth reporting slightly more than $6.33 million, followed by Ameristar II ($5.87 million), Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs ($4.08 million), Prairie Meadows ($1.65 million), Hard Rock ($1.44 million), and Grand Falls ($1.41 million).
Prairie Meadows was the only casino to report more than $1 million in revenue with slightly more than $1.69 million. Four more — Ameristar II, Diamond Jo in Worth, Isle Casino in Waterloo, and Wild Rose in Jefferson — ranged between $530,000 and $772,000.