Last Updated on: 01/12/2023
Despite lots of recent action toward the legalization of online casinos in Iowa, much of the headway has centered around online sportsbooks. Now that sports betting has been live and legal in the Hawkeye State for years, the door is ajar for online casinos. In the meantime, Iowa is home to almost two dozen casinos that residents and visitors alike can visit, including commercial and tribal gambling establishments.
Since online gambling isn’t yet legal in Iowa, we’ll show you the best alternatives to keep you going until the laws change. You’ll learn all about the best sweepstakes casinos and social casinos, plus which land-based resorts are worth visiting.
Online casinos and online poker remain illegal in the Hawkeye State. Despite this, Iowa is somewhat of a gambling-friendly state, offering a selection of land-based and riverboat casinos, racinos, lottery, daily fantasy sports (DFS), horse racing, and in-person poker. You can also place a sports bet online, which was part of sports betting advancements in the state. The launch of retail and online sports betting was back in 2019.
While a bill that would have introduced legal online casinos in Iowa was proposed in early 2023, it didn’t pass. This is where illegal offshore sites can be dangerous, as they make Iowa players searching for online casinos think that sites are now live. As they look deceivingly legal, it’s always worth looking for gambling licenses so you don’t get caught out.
Also, although no neighboring states offer legal online casinos, social and sweepstakes sites are great alternatives to eager Iowa players.
While online casinos are not yet legal in the Hawkeye State, Iowa has a fair number of retail and tribal casinos that you can visit. However, if you’re looking for a more convenient online-only platform, social and sweepstakes casinos are a much more suitable option.
Social casinos are legal in Iowa since they are not classed as offering “real money gambling”. Instead, you use a virtual casino currency called “Coins” rather than real cash to play games. Sure, you can’t withdraw these coins for real money, but you can still use them to play thrilling slots, jackpots, and table games for free. You can either claim these coins through bonuses and promotions or purchase them in bundles.
Some of our top-rated social casino sites include BetRivers.net, High5Casino.com, Mc Luck Casino, Casino Pulsz, Stake.us, and WOWVegas Casino. However, it’s definitely worth shopping around, having fun, and figuring out which casinos suit you best.
Fortunately, the registration process for sweepstakes and social casinos is pretty similar to what you’ll find on real money sites. Still, we’ll break it down so that you know what to expect:
Social and sweepstakes casinos are pretty similar. They both offer a legal alternative to real-money online casinos, online slots and casino games, attractive casino bonuses online, and more. Yet, there is one crucial difference between social and sweeps sites you should be aware of.
Both sites feature some form of virtual “Coin” that you can purchase or claim via promotions and use to play games. However, sweepstakes casinos in Iowa feature a different type of virtual currency alongside regular coins. These are often called “Sweeps Coins”, which you can only receive through bonuses. Yet, if you get lucky and make a profit on games using these coins, you can exchange them for real cash prizes and gift cards.
Since there are no legal online casinos in Iowa right now, there are no IA legit online casino apps on the market. However, you can still download dedicated social and sweepstakes casino apps directly to your device. Available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, we recommend trying your hand at native apps if you want a fun casino experience on the go.
The casino industry is well-established in Iowa, with more than 20 land-based casinos available. Some of the biggest names in gaming, such as Caesars and Hard Rock, operate a few of these casinos. Plus, DraftKings, BetMGM, and several other prominent gambling companies have already established a presence in Iowa through their industry-leading sportsbooks.
The introduction of online casinos in Iowa will further enhance the options available to gamblers. These online platforms will likely partner with the state’s existing gambling operators, creating a wide range of choices for Iowans. Therefore, you can brace yourself for plenty of online casino promo codes and welcome bonuses.
Until then, social and sweepstakes casino play can fill that “real money” casino void until the state opens its virtual doors to legal gambling. Since sweepstakes and social varieties are legal and mimic the real thing for free, you don’t have to miss out on the online casino exhilaration just because you aren’t wagering real cash. Some of them even have enticing sign-up offers.
So why haven’t online casinos been legalized in Iowa already? Especially given that it’s a huge college sports state – in other words, a home full of existing gamblers.
Historically, Iowa has been pretty open to gambling. As far back as the 1970s, the state has welcomed raffles, bingo, and other low-stake games of chance. This was swiftly followed by the legalization of pari-mutuel horse racing betting in 1983 and a state-run lottery in 1985. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad even established the Racing and Gaming Commission as a result.
Just four years later, legal riverboat casinos made their way to the Hawkeye State before three Native American gaming compacts were settled. With its foot already in the “land-based” casino door, Iowa expanded its retail casino presence in 2004 by granting several commercial gaming licenses for brick-and-mortar casinos. Despite this, online casino gambling hasn’t gathered as much momentum.
However, in March 2023, State Representative Bobby Kaufmann brought forth an online casino bill HSB 227 in an attempt to legalize online casinos in the state. In fact, Kaufmann has filed Iowa online casino bills in every session since 2021. Just like the previous year’s session, state lawmakers seem hesitant to permit online casinos in Iowa. Still, given the state’s openness to other gambling activities, don’t lose hope just yet.
For starters, Betfred and Elite have merged to become one sports betting provider, which will see the launch of a retail sportsbook at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort and the Rhythm City Casino Resort. This deal supports the prevalence of casinos in Iowa – and, hopefully, the eventual legalization of online platforms. If only state lawmakers and Iowans were as passionate about corn – a notable Iowa identifier and its top export – then there would be some detailed progress to report. So while we cannot say when online casinos will become legal, we can say it looks to be in the cards in the near future.
After the US Supreme Court voted to abolish the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, Iowa was one of the first out of the gate to establish a legal sports betting market. The passing of SF 617 in 2019 enabled Iowa’s retail and online sportsbook portfolio to expand rapidly.
Top betting brands like BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel are available online in the Hawkeye State. Of course, you can also visit some of Iowa’s top land-based sportsbooks, such as PointsBet Sportsbook at Catfish Bend Casino, FanDuel Sportsbook at Diamond Jo Dubuque, and Hard Rock Sportsbook at Hard Rock Casino Sioux City.
Even though online casinos in Iowa are yet to launch, residents and visitors can head to one of the state’s 19 commercial and four tribal casinos for some land-based gaming action. Featuring slot machines, table games, and plenty of amenities, let’s take a closer look at the brick-and-mortar casinos available in Iowa:
Sometimes there’s nothing more exciting than getting in on the casino action in person, so here are a few of Iowa’s top casinos to put on your must-visit list:
With frequent gigs to enjoy alongside countless dining options, Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino offers a plethora of entertainment and hospitality under one roof. The land-based casino’s top restaurants include AJ’s Steakhouse, The Paddock Grill, Prairie Coffee Company, Café At The Meadows, and Champions.
There’s even a “High Limits Room” specifically designated to slots and your classic penny slot machines. And that’s not to mention countless table games with huge jackpots, a Prairie Meadow Poker Room, and a competitive rewards program – “Prairie Gold Rewards”. You can use your accumulated rewards to work your way up the loyalty club’s tiers and even spend them at the resort and the resident hotel.
Priding itself on having “the best odds, highest limits, and biggest jackpots” in Iowa, visit Horseshoe Council Bluffs and enjoy over 1,300 slots, 50+ table games, and the Caesars Rewards program. If you sign up for this program, you can reap the benefits of $10 slot play on the house and lots more.
Also, you can choose between American or steakhouse cuisine so there’s no need to ditch the fun to grab something to eat elsewhere. Plus, if you wind up wanting to stay, you can book a room at one of Horseshoe Council Bluff’s hotel partners, such as Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express, or Country Inn.
With over 750 slot machines to test your luck on, you’re sure to stay entertained while visiting WinnaVegas Casino. If table games are more your thing, then no sweat – you have multiple options to try, such as Blackjack 21+3 Extreme, Cajun Stud (With In-House Progressive), Ultimate Texas Hold’Em With Ultimate Pairs Bonus, and more.
Plus, there are lots of Bingo games to keep you going to satisfy those instant win cravings – just check out the resident “Bingo Calendar”. Finally, with the Flowers Island Restaurant and Kasu Café to visit, the AboutGolf simulator, and the attached hotel, the casino appears to have it all.
Head to Ameristar Casino & Hotel, and you’ll find over 1,200 slot machines with wager limits ranging from a single cent all the way up to $100. However, if you prefer trying your hand at classic casino table games, visit the “Stadium Gaming” area and take a seat at one of the fifteen stations.
With 20+ tables available 24/7, including blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and Big 6, you’re sure to be kept on your toes. There are also plenty of promotions to enjoy, including a reputable “Penn Heroes” club exclusively available to those who serve our country.
Also, if you want to make a day of it and grab something to eat, you can visit Bella’s Bakery and Café, Buffet, Amerisports Bar, Double Down Dogs, or Club 38. And speaking of hospitality, how about rounding the day off by checking in to the hotel for a weekend?
Featuring over 67,553 square feet of endless casino gaming entertainment, try your luck on Meskwaki Bingo Casino’s hundreds of slot machines, 25+ table games, and bingo, available five days per week.
You can even sign up for Meskwaki’s Players Club. Here, you’ll earn points by playing your favorite games that you can exchange for real-life rewards, such as hotel stays, free gameplay, concert tickets, and much more. Also, you won’t have to stray too far from the fun to stay fueled since there are plenty of dining options. These include The Buffet, Luckys Grill & Taproom, the Food Arcade, Bingo Concessions, and the Lounge.
Originally, Iowa hosted many riverboat casinos following the legalization of riverboat gambling back in 1989, with the first facility opening its doors in 1991. At the time, casino gambling was permitted so long as it remained on riverboats that stayed in motion and not permanently docked.
That law was changed in 2004 when the state approved land-based casinos. Since then, several gaming facilities have moved further inland or are in the process of relocating to busy city centers with larger square footage to offer even more amenities. Today, less than a handful of riverboat casinos remain in their original form, namely the Ameristar Casino & Hotel and Lakeside Hotel Casino.
While you can’t participate in online poker at poker sites in Iowa, real-money poker is legal if you play in person. You can practice your poker face and enjoy the classic card game at commercial casinos, tribal gambling venues, and one of Iowa’s 10 poker rooms.
Unlike land-based casinos, cardrooms don’t offer slot machines or digitalized table games such as video poker. Instead, cardrooms host plenty of poker variants like Texas Hold’em and Omaha alongside traditional table games like blackjack and baccarat. You’ll find them at some of our recommended Iowa casino resorts.
These exciting racetrack-casino hybrids enable you to enjoy slot machines as you would at a traditional casino, with the added bonus of a racetrack. Often, table games are now available to play at racinos too, so card and dice game fans don’t have to miss out.
With Prairie Meadows being the most prominent racetrack in Iowa, pari-mutuel betting is a popular activity. This means that it’s legal to place horse racing bets in a “pool” and share the total amount wagered with other bettors (with a percentage deducted for the management).
Whether playing on social or sweepstakes sites or at land-based casinos, practicing responsible gambling plays a huge part in casino entertainment. However, if a player becomes concerned about their gambling habits, Iowa offers the following support:
Though predicting which states will pass gambling bills next is difficult, many are actively trying to bring online casinos home. Like Iowa, Indiana legalized sports betting in 2019 and is home to plenty of riverboat casinos and legal horse racing betting. Therefore, Indiana online casinos are a high possibility. Maryland and New York have the train on the track to legalize within a couple of years as well.
On the other hand are states that have shot down online casino conversations, but may be swayed and eventually give in due to their astronomical revenue potential. These include Texas, Florida, and California. Online gambling is still illegal in these huge states, but they are highly desired because the have the largest population sizes in the US.
That said, with widespread progression toward legal online casinos, who knows which state will get lucky next? Be sure to check out our pages, and we’ll keep you in the loop.
Ameristar Casino, Harrah’s Casino & Hotel, The Horseshoe Casino, and Prairie Flower Casino. Out of the four, The Horseshoe is the largest, with thousands of slot machines that Iowa casino players can test their luck on.
Not yet. However, online sports betting is legal, as well as horse racing and daily fantasy sports (DFS). Also, players can visit one of the Hawkeye State’s 19 retail casinos, four tribal casinos, and racecourse for some brick-and-mortar gambling action.
Absolutely – Hard Rock Sioux City. Offering almost 700 slot machines and multiple table games, the casino is a popular choice for Iowa residents and tourists.
Iowa casino games are legal at social or sweepstakes casino sites. While real-money online casino games and sites are not yet legal, you can spin the reels of slots and try your hand at table games at the state’s top social gambling platforms.
The legal gambling age in Iowa is 21 for land-based casinos or sports betting and 18 for bingo, daily fantasy sports (DFS), and lottery draws. However, right now, online casino gambling is illegal in Iowa.
Of course, it is! Legal retail and online sports betting went live in Iowa in May 2019. You’re free to visit sportsbooks online or in person, so long as you’re over the minimum legal gambling age of 21.
Hard Rock Sioux City, Harrah’s Council Bluffs, and Prairie Meadows Casino, Racetrack & Hotel – to name a few. Check out our experts’ list of Iowa casinos to get the full picture of which double as hotel resorts.