Mobile registration and Super Bowl bets deliver February boost for Iowa sportsbooks

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Iowa sportsbooks took in nearly $144m in bets in February and took in more bets per day than in the state’s history, even as its month-over-month handle fell from January’s surge.

The bottom line is that the Hawkeye State’s sportsbooks continue to reap significant benefits of no in-person registration requirements, according to analysts for PlayIA, which tracks regulated online and retail gaming in the state.

Jessica Welman, an analyst for PlayIA.com, said: “Iowa remains perhaps the most compelling case study yet on the effects of in-person registration requirements. February is a short month with only one NFL game to bet on, the Super Bowl, so the relatively flat month-over-month results can be misleading on the surface.

“But another strong showing still places Iowa in a class of states that are either larger or have far more mature gaming markets. And that would not be possible under the old requirements.”

Online and retail sportsbooks generated $143.6m in wagers in February, down 3.9% from the record $149.5m handle in January. But betting per day in the 28 days of the month was a record $5.1m, which was up from the $4.8m per day bet in the 31 days of January.

February’s handle pushed Iowa’s lifetime handle to $1.1bn, surpassing an eye-catching milestone.

The biggest reason for the two-month surge is the removal of in-person registration requirements in January. In fact, FanDuel reported new customer registrations multiplied by nearly a factor of seven from December to January, a direct result of the easing of registration requirements. And DraftKings said that by January 5, it had registered more customers via mobile registration than through all of 2020.

Net receipts for sportsbooks did fall 32% month over month, to $7.7m in February from $11.3m in January. The month’s revenue still yielded $520,444 in state taxes.

As immediate and significant an effect as the removal of in-person registration requirements has been, it is not the sole reason the state’s sportsbooks remained busy in February. The Super Bowl brought in $16.2m in wagers, most of which came in February. Bookmakers also benefited from robust interest in men’s college basketball, particularly No. 5 Iowa and Drake, which sits just outside the Top 25.

“When local teams enjoy strong seasons, as both Iowa and Drake are, interest in betting on their games goes up. We see that in every regulated sports betting market in the US,” said Dustin Gouker, analyst for PlayIA.com.

“With March Madness on the horizon, more growth almost certainly lies ahead. And sportsbooks should get an even bigger boost if Iowa or Drake can manage a prolonged run in the NCAA Tournament.”

For the month, online sports betting accounted for $143.6m, or 87.2%, of the state’s overall handle. That brings it closer in line with markets with more mature online sports betting and no on-site registration requirements. In those states, about 90% of all bets are made online.

The surge in online sports betting continues to heat up the race for market share among operators. Iowa’s first online operator in August 2019, 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 — retook the online market lead with $45.2m in online wagers in February. That netted a market-leading $2m in receipts.

The Wild Rose license, which is anchored by DraftKings but includes BetRivers, took in $38.9m in online wagers and $1.5m net receipts. FanDuel, the nation’s largest sportsbook brand, helped put Diamond Jo in third place with $28.4m in online bets, up from $26.9m in January. Diamond Jo’s license, which includes BetMGM, netted $1.5m on those bets.

Still emerging from COVID-related restrictions, retail betting generated $18.4m, down from $28.8m. Ameristar topped the retail market with $4.5m in wagers, just ahead of Diamond Jo Worth’s $4.2m.

William Hill and its partners lead across all betting platforms, with a combined retail and online handle of $50m, or 34.8% of the state’s handle. In a US market dominated by FanDuel and DraftKings, Iowa and Nevada are the only two states in which William Hill is the market leader.

“William Hill is still proving that early entry into a market is critically important,” Welman said. “But DraftKings and FanDuel are investing heavily in Iowa, and with their brand recognition, they are seeing a rapid return on that investment. We’ll see how long William Hill is able to hold them off.”

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