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Iowa does have a considerable amount of regulated gambling, and does restrict legal gambling to what is set forth in the regulations under Title 3, Public Services and Regulation, Subtitle 4, Gambling, of which Chapters 99 through 99G deal with the specific gambling regulations in the state of Iowa. (1)
We need not concern ourselves with the specific regulations here as they don’t really apply to poker other than poker that is licensed and regulated by the state, and there are a considerable number of legal live poker rooms in the state, which we will mention later.
What is of not here is that other than explicitly sanctioned gambling, whether it be poker, casino games, bingo, para-mutuel wagering, bingo, raffles, or what have you, these approved forms of gambling comprise all of the permitted gambling in Iowa, and all other forms of gambling are deemed illegal, by way of the Iowa Criminal Code.
The crime of “gaming and betting” reads as follows:
“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.” (2)
Iowa Doesn’t Mess Around Here With This
So while Iowa doesn’t have a specific definition of gambling, it does outlaw betting or wagering on anything not specifically in accordance with the gambling regulations as set forth in these chapters. So this does serve to provide a lot of clarity, unlike a lot of other states there is no debate as to whether a certain form of betting or wagering is against the law, if it is not permitted specifically in the law then it is against the law.
The penalties in Iowa for illegal gambling are pretty harsh compared to a lot of other states, and the penalties escalate depending on how much money is involved. The least serious offense involves a sum of one hundred dollars or less, although the determination of how this amount is to be counted isn’t made clear.
This involves a serious misdemeanor on the first offense, an aggravated misdemeanor on the second offense, and felony charges for subsequent convictions. The penalties are even harsher for gambling involving higher amounts. All of these offenses involve possible jail time, and the felony charges involve a possible sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment a fine of up to $10,000. (3)
As well, all proceeds of gambling during an arrest for this becomes subject to forfeiture by the state of Iowa, but this is limited to wagers staked, whether this be money or anything else of value that has been wagered or bet. (4)
Of course having harsh laws and enforcing them harshly aren’t necessarily the same thing, and people aren’t being sent to jail in Iowa for merely gambling, although the state does crack down on unauthorized gambling establishments and devices like a lot of states do.
It is still wise to be aware of what the law is of course and all unsanctioned gambling in Iowa, including home games and playing on the internet, is deemed to be a crime and at least potentially risks criminal penalties and forfeiture.
Playing Poker In Iowa
Practically speaking, when we are looking at the consequences of actions which may violate laws, we must consider both the legal consequences and the likelihood of conviction. There are two main elements here, the exposure to the risk and the will of the authorities to charge and prosecute for the offense.
For instance if you are gambling in a public place, that obviously involves more exposure than a private game would, although that still may involve some risk. Gambling at home on a computer would involve the least risk, especially if you are not making this known publicly, simply because the authorities would not be aware of the violation even if they wanted to prosecute it.
Then there’s the will to prosecute, and the way to determine that is to look at the history of prosecutions, if something is never being prosecuted then the law may exist basically only on paper and may even serve other functions primarily such as encouraging people to comply and pay fees.
Iowa is actually one of the most liberal states when it comes to gambling regulation, and you can obtain a social gambling license for your establishment or even your home where as long as the stakes are kept fairly small the state has no problem with it provided you qualify and pay the licensing fee. (5)
So it really is more about collecting fees and controlling gambling in this state than going out and looking to throw people in jail for the evils of gambling.
Iowa does have a total of 13 licensed and regulated poker rooms scattered around the state, and the live poker scene there is a pretty lively one. (6).
In addition, in spite of the laws against it, many poker players from Iowa are active in the online poker scene as they perceive the risk as extremely low or even virtually non existent, as do players from a number of other states, due to the complete absence of anyone ever being charged for this.
While we cannot advise you on this or encourage you to do so as well, should you wish to participate in this, we can indeed recommend a couple of very good online poker sites which offer real money play to Iowa residents as well as players from a lot of other states. There are some states which poker sites avoid, but Iowa is fortunately not one of them.
These top sites are Ignition Poker and America’s Cardroom, and should you be interested in learning more, feel free to click on the links we’ve provided to our reviews of them for you.