Sports betting tops $100 million mark again in February

The money bet on sports in Iowa continues to remain strong as more companies get approved to take wagers.

Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission administrator Brian Ohorilko says the betting — or handle — kept pace in February despite the shorter month.

“We had handle just short of 150 million (dollars). We did not quite hit the numbers that we hit in January — be we were very close. And that is an impressive number considering that there was only one NFL football game,” Ohorilko says.

He says the market is still growing. “With a handle over 100 million dollars for February, that marks the third straight month of handle over 100 million dollars,” according to Ohorilko. “And obviously, March is a very popular month for sports wagering with the NCAA basketball tournament.”

While sports betting has taken off, it does not provide the overall return to the state that traditional casino gambling does. “Casinos are taxed at a rate of 22 to 24 percent, depending on the type of facility. With sports wagering, it’s six and three-quarters percent,” Ohorilko explains. “It’s a lower tax rate for sports wagering, and in addition to that — typically the casino take is less than for normal casino games.”

Casinos pay back between 89 to 90 percent of the wagers. “With sports wagering it varies from month-to-month, but typically the payback is about 93%, a few percentage points higher. But with our sports wagering net receipts it is very volatile and quite frankly depends on how the public does,” he says.

Ohorilko says the NFL championship two years ago is a good example of how payouts can vary. He says the sports books all took a hit that month when the Kansas City Chiefs won the Superbowl, because there were so many people in Iowa who bet on the chiefs.

There was $143.6 million bet on sports in February — with about 87% of that coming from online bets. The law changed on January 1st so you no longer need to go to casinos to sign up to bet on sports online, which Ohorilko says has helped drive the increase in sports betting.

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