Empty streets lead to empty sportsbook and revenue numbers look the part.

  • Iowa recorded record lows for both sports betting handle and revenue in April.
  • COVID-19 shut down 6 Iowa sportsbooks entirely and relegated the other 13 to online wagers only.
  • Iowa casinos could begin reopening by mid-May, but until major American sports leagues resume, sports betting revenue won’t recover.

DES MOINES, Iowa. – After months of consistent growth, COVID-19 completely halted the momentum of Iowa’s sports betting industry. In April, Iowa sportsbooks recorded record lows for both total betting handle and for sports betting revenue.

In April, only 13 of Iowa’s 19 licensed sportsbooks were accepting wagers, with the others suspending all sports betting because of the Coronavirus shutting down their land-based location. The entire state only handled $1.6 million in wagers for the entire month and earned $150,000 in revenue—a hold rate of 9.58%.

The previous lowest month of betting handle was $8.6 million, which came during Iowa’s first month of operation and didn’t even comprise a full month. The previous lowest revenue total was $755,000 in February.

All Iowa casinos were forced by the state government to close indefinitely on March 17.

Online and mobile sports betting continues at many of Iowa’s casinos, but the bottom line is that without many major sporting events to bet on, handle and revenue will remain extremely low.

Recovery For Iowa’s Sports Betting Industry

Governor Kim Reynolds announced on April 28 that the closure of casinos would be extended through at least May 15, but retail sports betting revenues are a drop in the bucket compared to online and mobile revenues.

Online sports betting revenues have been somewhat hurt by a lack of new users, as bettors in Iowa must sign up for a mobile betting account at a physical casino first, which isn’t possible during the shutdown. A bigger concern is the fact that there simply aren’t many events to bet on.

All four major American sports organizations that would normally be playing games right now—the NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS—have suspended play indefinitely because of the virus and have not announced when they plan to resume their seasons.

Other popular global sports leagues, like the Korean Baseball Organization, are beginning to resume play after dealing with the worst of the Coronavirus outbreak, so April will probably be the worst month of 2020 for Iowa sports betting.

But revenues won’t be able to reach normal levels again until the major North American leagues can resume. Every major league is making contingency plans and considering potential schedule changes, but none have come to fruition yet.

Instead, sportsbooks are being carried by betting action on a handful of UFC and WWE events and miscellaneous global sports leagues that have little popular following in the United States.

Even once sports are able to resume, sportsbooks might find that people are less willing to use money for gambling because of the widespread economic downturn caused by the virus.

Right now, the only certainty is continued uncertainty until a vaccine is rolled out.

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