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Iowa's Online Gambling Laws 2024

Lawbook With GavelIowa gambling law does not mention online poker or online gambling. In fact, gambling laws in Iowa do not even mention the internet. As such there are no prohibitions on Iowa online poker or casino gambling in Iowa, and Iowa online gambling that is licensed and regulated outside of the United States has provided their services to USA players for decades, including those from Iowa.

There are those who feel that the absence of specific prohibitions does not necessarily mean they are absolutely legal, so let's take a look at the whole picture and see what types of legal opportunities that Iowa residents and visitors have available to them when it comes to Iowa online sports betting, casino gambling or poker betting.

Quick Jump

    Types Of Gambling Prohibited By Iowa Gambling Laws

    Iowa gambling law prohibits almost all types of gambling. It is illegal to take part in a game for money or anything of value. It is a crime to make a bet. There is no distinction between operators and players of illegal gambling activity. The severity of the charge will depend on the amount involved in the illegal gambling activity:

    • Under $100 – Illegal gaming in the fourth degree
    • Between $101 and $500 – Illegal gaming in the third degree
    • Between $501 and $5000 – Illegal gaming in the second degree
    • Over $5000 – Illegal gaming in the first degree

    The state can seize all money and property involved in the gambling activity and also any money and property even remotely connected with the gambling activity. The law makes an exception for regulated gambling but does not make any exceptions for games of skill.

    Iowa Land Based Poker Laws

    Playing real money poker in Iowa can run afoul of Iowa gambling law unless it fits into one of the exceptions. In Iowa, social gambling is referred to as games between individuals and is legal subject to certain conditions. Social games are not permitted in schools. All players must take turns dealing. No player can win or lose more than $50 in a 24 hour period. When calculating the winning amount, Iowa gambling law includes the amount wagered by the player. This rule also applies to home poker games. Besides this rule, for a home poker game to be legal, all players must have a bona fide social relationship, there should be no house and no one should make a profit as an operator of a home poker game. The host cannot charge a fee. The host and the players must have an equal chance of winning. All players must be at least 18 years old.

    Iowa Casino and Charitable Gambling Laws

    Charitable gambling is legal if conducted by licensed organizations. Charitable gambling includes bingo, raffles, game nights and more.

    There are licensed casinos in Iowa where one can play casino games or a game of poker without the fear of breaking the law. In 1989 the state passed legislation permitting riverboat gambling. In 1992 after compacts were signed between the state and the Native Indian tribes permitting the tribes to operate casinos, three tribal casinos started operating in the state. During 1998-99 many restrictions on land-based casinos were removed and it resulted in the expansion of existing casinos as well as the establishment of new ones. Presently all riverboat, land-based and racetrack casinos offer table games and slot machines. Players do have access to real money Iowa online casinos for easier access to casino gaming.

    Iowa legalized pari-mutuel wagering in 1983 when it passed the Pari-Mutuel Wagering Act and set up the state Racing and Gaming Commission to issue licenses for horse and dog racing. The state started issuing licenses to simulcast races in 1989.

    Iowa Online Gambling Laws

    Iowa had its first tryst with online poker in 2011 when the state legislature required the Racing and Gaming Commission to submit a report on the regulation of intrastate online poker. The report submitted by the Racing and Gaming Commission revealed that a 22 percent tax rate would result in a $3 million to $13 million increase in tax revenue.

    In February 2012 Iowa took a big step forward to legalizing online poker. The Senate State Government Committee passed a bill by a huge margin of 11-4. The bill sought to allow licenses to be issued for online poker where players could play with real money. The bill was passed by the Senate by a vote of 29-20. The House, however, did not move the bill and it died in the summer of 2012. There are plans to reintroduce the bill soon.

    In January 2013, Senator Jeff Danielson proposed the Senate Study Bill 1068. This was a poker only bill and called for establishing licensing requirements for online gambling. The bill, however, died in the legislature.

    While Iowa gambling laws do not address the issue of online gambling, there are Federal laws that deal with online gambling. It was initially thought that the Federal Wire Act prohibited online poker but the Department of Justice has clarified that the Act applies only to sports betting. The other Federal law that deals with online gambling is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. However, this Act does not prohibit online casino gambling, sports betting or online poker. It regulates the processing of payments received from an online gambling activity.

    Official Reference To Iowa State Gambling Laws

    Iowa gamblers and residents who are interested in reviewing the official laws and statutes for the law of Iowa, you can visit the Iowa State Legislature official website. Here you will find the precise references in their original context.

    Iowa Gambling Law FAQs

    What constitutes Illegal gambling in Iowa?

    The state of Iowa prohibits taking part in any unlicensed games where things of value or money are exchanged as a result of a game of chance. In Iowa law, there is no distinction made between the players and the operators of illegal gambling services.

    What are the consequences of illegal gambling in Iowa?

    The severity of the punishment depends on how much money is involved in illegal gambling activity. If it’s under $100 dollars you will be charged with fourth-degree Illegal gambling that comes with a “serious misdemeanor.” A “serious misdemeanor” carries a sentence of up to a year in jail and between $250-$1500 dollar fine. If you wager more than $100 but less than $500, you’ll receive a third-degree charge which is considered an “aggravated misdemeanor” which can result in up to 2 years in jail and up to $5000 in fines. If you bet more than $500 and less than $5000 you will be charged with Illegal gambling in the second degree which is a class D felony which can get you up to 5 years in jail, and up to $7500 in fines. Finally, any illegal gambling that deals with amounts equal to or greater than $5000 is a class C felony and can land you in jail for up to 10 years with up to $10000 dollars in fines to pay off.

    Can I play a legal real-money home game of poker in Iowa?

    Yes. The state of Iowa allows social gambling but only under certain strict guidelines. Social gambling can never be done in a school, all players must have their own turn in dealing, and no one can stand to lose any more than $50 dollars in a 24-hour time period. All home games of poker must be between people who have a verifiable social relationship and the game cannot produce any profits for anyone outside of the winnings obtained from the play of the game. Everyone must have an equal chance in the game and everyone must be at least 18 years old.

    Does Iowa allow charitable gambling?

    Yes. Charitable gambling exists legally in the state of Iowa if it is conducted by an authorized organization. These organizations have the opportunity to provide certain games like raffles, bingo, and other types of game nights only if they are certifiably non-profit organizations and the proceeds go to social causes.

    Are there any other legal gambling opportunities in the state of Iowa?

    The state of Iowa has legally sanctioned casinos and tribal casinos that have expanded rapidly since they were legalized in the ’90s. There are also many riverboat gambling attractions and pari-mutuel gambling.

    **This page is intended as informational only, and not to substitute for the professional interpretation of the law by licensed and trained attorneys. If you are seeking a professional interpretation of any law or statute or legal services of any kind, please consult a lawyer. We are gambling consultants and are trained nor do we hold any degrees or certificates in any area of the law.