Iowa Online Poker Laws Clarified

Located in the American Heartland, Iowa is indubitably average in terms of size and population. It is ranked the 26th largest and 30th most populous of the 50 US states with an estimated 3,090,416 residents (est. 2013). Once known for its dominating agricultural industries, Iowa has expanded into a more diverse economy in the last few decades, including advanced manufacturing and informational technology, among other high-yielding industries. Once such source of revenue comes from its abundance of regulated gambling opportunities which include casinos, horse and greyhound racing facilities, bingo and a state-run lottery. What you won’t find are any regulated online poker rooms based in Iowa.

Just because a state doesn’t offer legally regulated online poker doesn’t necessarily make it illegal to play on the internet. That can only be determined by examining the express laws of the jurisdiction. This article will assess the gambling laws of Iowa to deduce the climate of online poker; whether it’s legal, illegal or somewhere in between.

Land-based Gambling in Iowa

There are currently 21 casinos located in Iowa; some owned and operated commercially, and others of the Native American variety. The majority of them do offer a poker room with real money Texas Hold’em cash games, tournaments and more. Iowa is also home to three greyhound racing tracks, one horse racing track and regulates its own state lottery. Needless to say, Iowa is generating plenty of tax dollars from the gambling industry. Unfortunately, regulated online poker is not yet a part of it.

Deciphering the Laws of Iowa as they relate to Online Poker

Chapter 725 of the Iowa Code deals with gambling and gambling related offenses. The following are excerpts from that portion of the text that may relate to the legality of online poker in Iowa.

Section Text Meaning (in re online poker)
IC 725.7 Gaming and Betting – Penalty 1.  Except as permitted in chapters 99B and 99D, a person shall not do any of the following:
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.
Chapters 99B and 99D deal with state regulated forms of gambling and social gambling, which are entirely legal. However, any unregulated form of gambling or a game where a fee is charged to enter, or someone stands to make a profit outside of personal gambling winnings, is illegal.Otherwise, to participate in a game or make any bet for anything of value is illegal. As such, playing real money online poker would qualify as illegal gambling.
2.  A person who violates this section is guilty of the following:a.  Illegal gaming in the fourth degree if the sum of…value…does not exceed one hundred dollars…
(1)  A serious misdemeanor for a first offense.
(2)  An aggravated misdemeanor for a second offense.
(3)  A class “D” felony for a third offense.
(4)  A class “C” felony for a fourth or subsequent offense.

b.  Illegal gaming in the third degree if the sum of…value…exceeds one hundred dollars but does not exceed five hundred dollars…
(1)  An aggravated misdemeanor for a first offense.
(2)  A class “D” felony for a second offense.
(3)  A class “C” felony for a third or subsequent offense.

c.  Illegal gaming in the second degree if the sum of…value…exceeds five hundred dollars but does not exceed five thousand dollars…
(1)  A class “D” felony for a first offense.
(2)  A class “C” felony for a second or subsequent offense.

d.  Illegal gaming in the first degree if the sum of…value…exceeds five thousand dollars. Illegal gaming in the first degree constitutes a class “C” felony.

Penalties are as follows:Misdemeanors
Serious Misdemeanor – $315-$1,875 fine and possible jail time, up to 1 year.
Aggravated Misdemeanor – $625-$6,250 fine and possible jail time, up to 2 years.

Class D Felony – $750-$7,500 fine and up to 5 years in jail.
Class C Felony – $1,000-$10,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail.

IC 99BGames of Skill or Chance 99B.1 Definitions
16.  “Game of skill” means a game whereby the result is determined by the player directing or throwing objects to designated areas or targets, or by maneuvering water or an object into a designated area, or by maneuvering a dragline device to pick up particular items, or by shooting a gun or rifle.
Poker is not considered a game of skill in Iowa.
99B.11 Bona Fide Contests
3.  A poker, blackjack, craps, keno, or roulette contest, league, or tournament shall not be considered a bona fide contest under this section.
Poker is not considered a bona fide contest in Iowa.


Is Online Poker Illegal in Iowa?

Yes. The language of the Iowa Code is incredibly effusive and detailed when it comes to what is and is not considered legal gambling. Because poker is not a game of skill or bona fide contest, it must be classified simply under gaming and betting. The laws of gaming and betting prohibit the act of making any bet for real money on any game unless authorized by Iowa state law. Thus one would have to surmise that, without express regulation, online poker is illegal in Iowa.

The penalties for illegal gambling are extensive and increase by the amount of money involved in the activity. They are steep to begin with, and only get worse for repeat offenders, ranging anywhere from a $315-$875 fine and up to a year in jail, to as high as a $10,000 and 10 years in jail.

Is Iowa working to Legalize Online Poker?

Yes. The state has been trying to pass legislation to legalize online poker for the last few years. Online gambling bills in Iowa failed in 2012 and 2013, with no further efforts presented in 2014. But all is not lost.

Earlier this year, President and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association Wes Ehrecke said the Hawkeye State would not pursue another measure until next year. Ehrecke said that for the duration of 2014, the state would observe the effects of online poker and casino gaming in Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada to “learn what is working or not, including their regulations, compacts with other states, etc., and decide on suggested language for a bill to consider in 2015.”

Online Poker Players from Iowa

Likely due to the current legal climate of online poker in Iowa, most of the professionals who still play online choose to keep their identity a secret. One of the most famous known live and online poker pros from Iowa is Darrell “GigaBet” Dicken, who wrangled up over $200k in online poker tournaments pre-Black Friday plus $1.79 million from major live poker events.

Land-Based Card Rooms in Iowa

Iowa is home to a multitude of gambling destinations of the commercial and tribal variety. The following is a list of all casinos in Iowa, their location and availability of poker tables.

Location: Council Bluffs, IA
Poker Room: No

Blackbird Bend Casino
Location: Onawa, IA
Poker Room: No

Catfish Bend
Location: Burlington, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Diamond Jo Casino – Dubuque
Location: Dubuque, IA
Poker Room: No

Diamond Jo Casino – Worth
Location: Northwood, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Grand Falls Casino
Location: Larchwood, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Harrah’s Casino & Hotel
Location: Council Bluffs, IA
Poker Room: No

Hard Rock
Location: Sioux City, IA
Poker Room: No

Horseshoe Council Bluffs
Location: Council Bluffs, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Isle of Capri Bettendorf
Location: Bettendorf, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Isle of Capri Waterloo
Location: Waterloo, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Location: Marquette, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Lakeside Hotel & Casino
Location: Osceola, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Meskwaki Casino
Location: Toledo, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Location: Dubuque, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Prairie Meadows
Location: Altoona, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Rhythm City
Location: Davenport, IA
Poker Room: No

Riverside Casino & Golf Resort
Location: Riverside, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Wild Rose Casino and Resort
Location: Clinton, IA
Poker Room: Yes (1 Table)

Wild Rose Casino and Resort
Location: Emmettsburg, IA
Poker Room: Yes

Location: Sloan, IA
Poker Room: Yes

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