Iowa Gambling Laws + Statutes

Throughout the entire United States, citizens everywhere have a love affair with gambling. This is especially true in what is often called the nation’s “heartland,” of which the state of Iowa is a major part. While the romantic image of the elite high roller, or the down on his luck gambler who suddenly earns enough to turn his life around is probably more the stuff of fantasy than reality, a casual gambling hobby, when performed responsibly, can offer a lot of excitement and a lot of fun if you pay attention to Iowa gambling laws.

While gambling is certainly not for everyone, it’s upsetting to find that so many people do not participate not due to lack of interest, but because they have a poor understanding of the laws which surround gambling, and fear being tossed in a jail cell simply for sitting in on a hand of Texas Hold‘em. This page was written to try and help Iowa residents get a firm grasp on the laws in their home state that affect their ability to gamble, and their rights within the framework of those laws.

According to the federal government, the act of placing bets and wagers is perfectly legal, but the unsanctioned facilitation of it for profit can land one in very deep legal trouble. Most states use this as a template for their own laws. While the letter of the law in Iowa is more restrictive than that, the execution and intent of the law tends to fall right in line. Residents who read on may find their legal rights and restrictions much clearer at the end of the document than they did at the beginning.

The Legality of Gambling in Iowa

The Iowa gambling laws are fascinating and unique in many ways, but perhaps in no way more so that the fact that the act of participating gambling and facilitating it for a profit are actually entwined in the same definition. Most states separate these two acts, following the federal government’s lead of using the letter of the law to trap large criminal syndicates and offer heftier punishments for those who facilitate gambling for otherwise honest citizens.

The long-winded definition of gambling according to chapter 725.7 makes it illegal for one to “a. Participate in a game for any sum of money or other property of any value. b. Make any bet. c. For a fee, directly or indirectly, give or accept anything of value to be wagered or to be transmitted or delivered for a wager to be placed within or without the state of Iowa. d. For a fee, deliver anything of value which has been received outside the enclosure of a racetrack licensed under chapter 99D to be placed as wagers in the pari-mutuel pool or other authorized systems of wagering. e. Engage in bookmaking.”

What does that was of legal-ese mean? Essentially, that whether one is simply participating in a game of poker or making a bet on a sports event, in the eyes of the law, they are equally guilty as one who is operating that game or sportsbook. The penalties are set up on an escalating scale, based both in how much money is put at stake and the frequency with which the offense has occurred.

Penalties for Gambling in Iowa

Gambling in the fourth degree occurs whenever the sum of money in question is less than $100. The first conviction of this offense is considered a serious misdemeanor which can result in up to one year of jail time along with a fine of $315-1875. A second offense is an aggravated misdemeanor which is good for up to two years in jail and a fine of $625 to $6250. If convicted a third time, the offender is guilty of a class D felony. In addition to staying on your criminal record forever, this can land a guilty party up to five years in jail and a fine ranging from $750 to $7500. A fourth, and all subsequent convictions will be a class C felony which can earn one up to 10 years in prison and a fine ranging from $1000 to $10,000.

Gambling in the third degree is charged when the value of what is gambled is judged to be in the $100-$499 range. For third degree gambling, the first offense is an aggravated misdemeanor with each subsequent offense moved up the scale until it tops off at a class C felony. If one is convicted of gambling with money ranging from $500-$4,999 they are guilty of gambling in the second degree, where the first conviction is a class D felony and all subsequent offenses are a class C felony. If the value of what is being wagered is over $5,000 it is considered gambling in the first degree, and even the first conviction is a class C felony.

How to Gamble Legally and Avoid Charges

The most important thing to understand about any law that one may feel infringes on citizens’ rights or their ability to enjoy a hobby is the spirit and intent behind that law. When it comes to the federal laws that govern gambling, the intent was always to hurt large organized crime syndicates, and therefore, the individual gambler was never really punished. Iowa, in addition to wanting to hurt large criminal syndicates has another objective: they wish to protect their state sanctioned gambling facilities.

Once one understands this aspect of the law, they may begin to form how best to go about enjoying a gambling hobby without staring down long jail sentences. Firstly, rest assured that while it’s true that gambling and the facilitation of illicit gambling for profit are indeed included in the same offenses, Iowa has a much greater chance of charging those who facilitate gambling than those who merely participate. In fact, even though Iowa is one of the most active states in the union for prosecuting gambling cases, the ratio of those facilitating gambling charged versus those who merely participate is more than fifty-to-one. Still, no readers of this page want to end up the one, so how may it be avoided?

Firstly, if one wishes to gamble on land, doing so in a state sanctioned casino is strongly advised. Large, illicit gambling operations are sure to attract the attention of the Iowa state law enforcement, and when a large operation is brought down they most often will charge not only the operators involved, but a selection of the high rollers in the illicit casino and the regular players in order to discourage that behavior.

If you wish to gamble away from a busy casino environment, home poker games are certainly an option, but to ensure that they are as safe and legal as possible, ensure that the stakes do not go above $100 and that the host of the game does not collect a profit. As long as no fee is collected during the game, it falls under what Iowa law would consider “social gambling,” which is exempt from prosecution. To be clear, earning a profit does not meant betting wisely and coming out ahead, it involves setting oneself up in a position to make a profit even without betting at all. This can be accomplished through charging admission for the privilege to play, collecting a small percentage of each pot in a poker game as profit, or operating any traditional casino game as the “house,” who by definition always stands the strongest odds of winning.

If one wasn’t to gamble online, they better ensure that even if they are using a legal gambling website that they are discrete hosts and located outside of Iowa jurisdiction. While Iowa has been known to arrest participants in illicit gambling rings they bust out, they have never made an arrest outside of these raids related to gambling, so as long as the website remains discrete and is located outside the country, all users will be safe from prosecution in Iowa.

Gambling Laws in the State of Iowa

Iowa Sports Betting Laws

Even though Iowa is a state that has many legal casinos located within its borders, sports betting remains a strict no-no. Since the state of Iowa is not exempt from the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the state cannot sanction any sports betting.

Despite this turn of event, many Iowa residents who turn to legal online sportsbooks are able to bet a few dollars on sports every day with no interference from the law.

IA Sports Gambling Laws
Is Sports Betting Legal?
Iowa Sportsbooks
Iowa Casino Gaming Laws

For those in Iowa who have a hankering for some slots or traditional casino table games, there are several legal casinos spread throughout the state, meaning there should be plenty of options to play blackjack or shoot some craps.

Those who do not wish to participate in the busy casino environments may be better served sticking to legal online casinos who serve thousands if Iowa residents every day fairly and discretely.

IA Casino Gambling Laws
Are Casino Games Legal?
Iowa Casinos
Iowa Poker Laws

All land-based casinos in Iowa offer poker rooms which means that Iowa has poker laws that are friendly to those operating paid games in a regulated enviroment. The poker laws in Iowa also grants special legal exemptions for friends who play poker in a private environment so long as the stakes stay low and the host does not collect a profit.

In addition, Iowa residents should also feel free to take advantage of legal online poker rooms to play some poker for more serious money right from the comfort of their own homes.

IA Poker Laws
Is It Legal To Play Poker?
Iowa Poker Rooms

Legal Gambling Age In Iowa

It goes without saying this far into the article that attempting to legally gamble in the state of Iowa is possible, but a complicated affair at best. One of the easiest ways to throw away any good will the state of Iowa would be willing to concede to their residents regarding legal gambling however, is for any of them to attempt to gamble underage. The legal gambling age in Iowa is 21, and it is strongly recommended that everyone wait until they ae over it to attempt to gamble.

Those found guilty of Iowa gambling laws, even if they gamble via legal means, will not only have penalties from the state to deal with including fines and even jail time, but the facility with which they are caught gambling will almost certainly institute a ban and seize all of a guilty party’s funds, thusly negating all the work that went into gambling in the first place.

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Places to Gamble in Iowa

On-Land: Those who prefer gambling in casinos will find a bit of luck in Iowa. In addition to several riverboat casinos, Iowa recently passed legislation sanctioning land based casinos, and some of the largest in the world outside of Las Vegas are right in Iowa residents’ backyards. While federal law prohibits any land based facilities in the United States from offering sports betting, both traditional casino games and poker may be played in any of these casinos scattered throughout the state.

Home Games: Although permitted according to state law, they must adhere to strict regulations to be considered “social.” Firstly, the stakes must remain under $100 per player, and the host of the game must not collect a profit. Iowa state law enforcement has been known to sniff out illicit poker games, so be careful to follow these rules!

Online/Web-Based: For those that prefer gambling in the comfort of their own home rather than casinos which can not only be hectic but a far drive from home, there are several legal gambling sites for Iowa residents. No doubt a reader who has had it drilled into their head that even if there is sanctioned gambling in their home state, gambling with an illicit enterprise can not only land the host but even the players in serious legal trouble is confused by this. The answer is simple. The websites listed on this page are hosted and maintained overseas, well outside of federal and Iowa jurisdiction.

As a result, not only do these websites run no chance of being shut down by authorities, but since they are legal, legitimate, and discrete online businesses, Iowa players need not worry about being caught using them. While the idea of gambling with a foreign business might be unsettling to some, the pros of gambling with a legal and legitimate business should far outweigh these fears. Most notably, in order to maintain their legal status, these businesses must maintain certifications from reputable international gaming commissions which guarantee that all users are entitled to fair play and efficient and speedy payouts.

Best Legal Gambling Site For Iowa Residents

Bovada - Features Fast & Secure Payout Options In Iowa

If you are seeking an Iowa gambling site that exemplifies legal and legitimate business, you need look no further than Bovada. After over 20 years of service to US citizens, this online gambling network has racked up not only customer endorsements a mile long, but the partnership and sponsorship of major media networks like CBS. It’s safe to say that thee credentials are not earned easily or overnight, but rather through many years of fair, dedicated service.

You do not have to take Bovada’s word for it, though. No matter which area of the gambling site make a deposit with, the casino, the poker room, or the sportsbook, you will be entitled to a generous and unique sign up bonus. You can use this bonus money to thoroughly explore the every nook and cranny of the site without needing to risk any of your own money, thus assuring that by the time you are ready to gamble for real, you’re not only roaring and ready to go, but you have an intimate knowledge of how Bovada works. Good luck out there!

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Need More Help?...

While we stand by this page as accurate and well researched, we are not lawyers, and therefore this cannot be considered a legal consult. We completely understand wanting to double check your facts and we invite you to direct any further questions to a qualified legal professional that practices law in Iowa, or to the Iowa state legislature ( where you are free to read and interpret the Iowa gambling laws for yourself.