Legal Iowa Poker Laws

A Guide to Poker in the State of Iowa

Iowa Gambling Laws The State of Iowa provides many options for you to gamble and play poker legally within its jurisdiction. State casinos attract many visitors from both residents and from neighboring Nebraska. While there is a healthy gambling economy, penalties are strict for those involved in illegal gambling - especially for those playing for big money.

This guide to poker within Iowa begins with a brief run-down of how the gambling laws developed in the State, before asking the question of whether or not poker is legal. Following this you can find options for playing live poker in Iowa along and then the status of online poker.

History of Gambling in Iowa

Regulated gambling is relatively new to Iowa. With the state lottery and betting on horseracing only becoming legal in the 1980s, it was only in the 1991 when the first riverboat casinos were permitted to open. During the same time Native Americans started to push for casinos to be permitted on tribal land

Laws are in place allowing each county to decide whether or not to permit casinos. At present 18 such casinos exist alongside the riverboat and tribal casinos. In addition to the pari-mutuel wagering originally allowed at the horse racing tracks, there have been developments on these properties - some these venues have turned into casinos in their own right.

Is Poker Legal in Iowa?

Iowa hosts a wide range of regulated gambling including poker, where players can participate in a safe and legal environment.  There are many card rooms in the casinos scattered across the State and most players should be able to find a legal game in their area. You are also allowed to play poker socially for small stakes.

While Iowa permits gambling the State takes a tough line on those involved in illegal games. Iowa believe in keeping their gambling laws simple and to the point. According to Section 725.1(1) of the Statute:

“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.”

If you are caught taking part in illegal gambling unfortunately there is no difference made between players and operators. As the laws are based on the betting rather than the type of game being played, it covers all activities. The penalties vary depending on the amount of money involved and increase with further violations.

Where can you Play Live Poker in Iowa

Iowa has many casinos where you can find live poker games. These generally host mid-sized card rooms which are large enough for regular cash games of all stakes and daily tournaments - in addition to some regional tournament events.

The largest casino in Iowa is the Horseshoe Council Bluffs which has previously hosted WPT events and attracts lot of visitors from Nebraska. Another casino of note can be found at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack, which has been visited by the Heartlands Poker Tour.

Home games are permitted in Iowa as long as no one profits via rakes or fees charged for taking part. There are strict stipulations that no one is allowed to win more than $50. This could be for the whole session or just a single hand, and does not take into account the money you put into the pot. Therefore it is best only to play home games for small stakes, and visit the casinos if you wish to play for bigger money.

You can also find charity tournaments and free to enter bar leagues operating in Iowa.

Iowa’s Stance on Online Poker

While there is no direct law addressing online poker, the assumption is it is covered by existing laws making it a form of illegal gambling. The way Iowa’s gambling laws are structured to focus the act of betting rather than the game means that in all likelihood this would be enough to cover online poker - although no one has ever been charged with the offense.

With other States already regulating online poker there have been calls within Iowa to follow. A bill was put forward in 2012 which failed to gain any traction, and the subject is now due to be addressed no sooner than 2022.

In the meantime for those who wish to play online there are still offshore sites which are happy to accept customers from Iowa. These sites operate legally from countries outside of the US - such as the Caribbean islands - and argue their ability to provide games to US players through international free-trade agreements.

In Summary – Iowa Poker

Iowa has many legal options for those wishing to play poker within the State. There are plenty of casinos to choose from and social home games are permitted providing you stick to a few basic rules.

Online poker currently has no legislation directly addressing it, although it is believed there will be future possibilities to play regulated online poker in Iowa.