According to PlayIA analysts, Iowa sportsbooks took advantage of the popularity of March Madness to set new records last month, raising more than $160 million in wagering and signalling a welcome return to form after a slight fall in handle in February.
In March, internet and retail sportsbooks combined to take in $161.4 million in wagers, up 8 percent from $143.6 million in February and surpassing the previous high of $149.5 million in January. Iowa also set records for per-day betting average and sales thanks to the intense competition, which included several bets on the NCAA Tournament.
In the 31 days of March, per-day betting reached $5.2 million, surpassing the previous high of $5.1 million set in the 28 days of February.
Sportsbooks earned $13.5 million in net receipts in March, up from $7.7 million in February and breaking the previous high of $11.3 million set in January. In all, March’s bets resulted in $908,011 in state taxes, a record record.
Setting new highs
Jessica Welman an analyst for PlayIA.com said: “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.
“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 the NCAA Tournament, Iowa and Drake combined for four games, which certainly fuelled interest in March. In addition, the women’s basketball teams of Iowa and Iowa State added five more NCAA Tournament games, which boosted interest in college basketball betting.
Elimination of in-person enrolment provisions
However, the elimination of in-person enrolment provisions for online betting in January was the key driver of Iowa’s success in the first quarter of 2021. In March, online gaming took in $139.4 million in wagers, accounting for 86.3 percent of the state’s total handle. In December, the last month of in-person registration, online bets accounted for 74.4 percent of a much smaller overall handle.
“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 has Iowa partnerships with Prairie Meadows, Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs, Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, Isle of Capri Bettendorf, Lakeside, and Harrah’s Council Bluffs, came out on top with $49.5 million in retail and online handle in March, including $43 million in online wagers. Online betting alone generated $2.3 million in revenue.
However, Iowa continues to win ground for the country’s two biggest sportsbooks. The Wild Rose licence, which is dominated by DraftKings but also includes BetRivers, came in second with $44.3 million in overall handle and $43.7 million in online betting, resulting in a market-leading $3.6 million in net receipts from online betting.
Diamond Jo finished third with $42.8 million in bets, including $37.7 million in online bets, thanks to FanDuel and BetMGM. Online betting brought in $2.9 million in revenue. Retail betting brought in $22.1 million, up from $18.4 million in February.
Welman added: “It will not be easy for William Hill to fend off DraftKings and FanDuel. 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.”