A Review Of Iowa Gaming Laws


Believe it or not, Iowa has gaming regulations consistent with Nevada and New Jersey although most of their laws are geared toward riverboat gambling. In Iowa in 1989, casino gaming was legalized aboard historical river excursion vessels on the Mississippi River, Missouri River and other waterways within the state. At the same time, the state legislature developed the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

The Iowa Racing And Gaming Commission

The primary function of the Commission is to oversee pari-mutuel wagering as well as riverboat gaming. The Commission is fairly standard with five members appointed by the Governor of Iowa and reviewed by the Senate. Each member serves an office term of three years. The requirements for the position are by political party, gender and region in the state. The state requires approval from the counties where the riverboat will be based.

Similarity To Large Gaming States

Iowa has modeled their gambling structure after major gaming states like Nevada and New Jersey. The Nevada gaming model has always been regarded as lenient. On the other hand, New Jersey is much stricter. The New Jersey model requires an assessment of the cost of regulation as well as taxes. This was not possible in Iowa due to the high cost for the types of casinos permitted in the state.

Instead, Iowa focused on harsh regulations with regards to security, surveillance and cash control. Also, a networked slot machine data system was a requirement for the tracking of slot games. The state felt they found a balance between regulation and cost-effectiveness. However, casino operators still believed the cost was too high due to the high-priced state police agents aboard each vessel.

Casino Taxes

The tax structure is similar to other states offering riverboat gaming. Operators must pay an annual fee of $5 per person per voyage including the crew. Also, the state levies a $0.50 per head tax with a maximum of $250,000 per boat. Individual counties can implement a $0.50 local tax per passenger. The revenue is on a gradual scale with 5 percent for the first million dollars, 10 percent on the next two million and 20 percent on all revenue above three million.

Iowa initially used the best laws from New Jersey and Nevada to find the proper balance of regulation and cost-efficiency. In such a short time they have implemented a model gaming system for the rest of the country to follow.