Iowa made the headlines when it legalized sports betting in 2019, but that was only the latest upgrade to an existing gaming infrastructure that also includes casino gambling and horse racing betting.

One of the most popular casinos in the state is Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel, thanks in no small part to the thoroughbred racetrack located on site. In addition to Prairie Meadows, the state is also home to Iowa Greyhound Park, one of the few remaining greyhound racing facilities in the country.

Harness racing is also featured at various fair events throughout the state, which also has its fair share of off-track betting facilities. Betting on horse racing is a legal and welcome pastime in Iowa, both in-person and online. Several of the top online operators in the industry happily serve Iowa residents.

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Online Horse Racing Betting in Iowa

Iowa legalized advance deposit wagering (ADW) in 2011 with legislation allowing operators to accept wagers online and through mobile devices. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) oversees the conduct of horse racing and all parimutuel betting throughout the state.

Iowa Code §99D.11 (pg. 13) authorizes licensed providers to conduct parimutuel wagering in-person, online and by “any other electronic means”:

An advance deposit wager may be placed in person at a licensed racetrack enclosure, or from any other location via a telephone-type device or any other electronic means. The commission may also issue an advance deposit wagering operator license to an entity who complies with subparagraph (3) and section 99D.8A.

Iowa is also clearly listed as a legal state for horse racing betting on each of the major online sites which are available for use by residents: TVG, BetAmerica, and TwinSpires. Customers must be 21 or older to bet on horse races or greyhounds in Iowa.

Iowa Racetracks

There is only one option for live thoroughbred racing in Iowa. Prairie Meadows opened for business in 1989. It has since expanded to become a full-fledged racino. Iowa is also home to a greyhound race track. Harness racing is featured on the popular fair circuit in the state.

Prairie Meadows

1 Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009

Prairie Meadows opened for business in 1989. Pari-mutuel racing was officially legalized in the state in 1983, but options for live thoroughbred racing were limited for some time afterwards. Prairie Meadows opened to fill the void.

The racing calendar runs from May through October each year, and features both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races. Among the highlights are the annual Cornhusker Handicap, a Grade III stakes race which runs at the end of June.

Prairie Meadows added slot machines in 1995 and has since expanded to become a full-fledged racino. Visitors will find an assortment of table games, slots and a poker room.

The on-site hotel features 168 rooms for guests, who can also take advantage of a variety of dining and entertainment options to round out their stay.

Iowa Greyhound Park

1855 Greyhound Park Drive
Dubuque, IA 52001

The greyhound park began operations in 1985, shortly after pari-mutuel racing was legalized in Iowa. The live calendar runs from the spring through fall, while simulcast wagering is available year-round.

Like Prairie Meadows, this location has evolved into a full casino through the years. It shares an address with Q Casino and Hotel, which also features slots, table games, and a sportsbook.

The casino is attached to a Hilton Garden Inn for overnight stays. The property also features a number of different dining options, as well as a busy entertainment calendar.

Iowa Harness Racing   

While there’s no set location for Iowa harness racing, events are held regularly in locations including Eldon, Humboldt, and What Cheer. The website is updated regularly and includes a clear calendar of upcoming events.

Off-Track Betting in Iowa

While there may only be one venue for live thoroughbred racing in Iowa, the state is not lacking in options for off-track betting. There are several venues across Iowa which offer OTB. Here are the details on each of them and what they have to offer.

Prairie Meadows Casino & Hotel

1 Prairie Meadows Drive
Altoona, IA 50009

The state’s only place for live thoroughbred racing also features a simulcast facility which is open seven days per week. The venue offers a full assortment of races from the top tracks across the nation.

Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino

2701 23rd Avenue
Council Bluffs, IA 51502

This casino is in the Caesars family. A sports betting facility known as The Book recently opened on site which features a full assortment of HDTVs, as well as a food and drink menu.

Harrah’s Council Bluffs

1 Harrah’s Boulevard
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

Harrah’s is also a part of the Caesars family. This location also features a venue known as The Book on site which has several viewing options and cocktail service.

Iowa Greyhound Park

1855 Greyhound Park Road
Dubuque, IA 52001

The Iowa Greyhound Park also offers simulcasting of both horse and greyhound races. Simulcasting is offered Wednesday through Sunday starting at 10:30 AM.

Wild Rose Clinton

777 Wild Rose Drive
Clinton, IA 52732

An off-track betting facility is open on Wednesdays through Sundays. Simulcasts from various horse, harness, and greyhound tracks across the country are offered.

Iowa Horse Racing Betting Laws

Pari-mutuel racing was officially legalized in Iowa in 1983. A full breakdown of the law, which also established the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, can be found online.

The system of wagering on the results of horse or dog races as provided by this chapter is legal, when conducted within the racetrack enclosure at a licensed horse-race or dog-race meeting.

For several years, the only options for live racing for residents was at various fair events. That changed in 1989 when Prairie Meadows opened its doors. The racetrack located in Altoona is still going strong. In 1995, Prairie Meadows expanded with the addition of a casino and legalized slot gaming

Advance deposit wagering is also legal in the state of Iowa. Major online operators such as TVG, TwinSpires, and BetAmerica offer online horse racing betting to residents.

Major Horse Racing Events in Iowa

  • Cornhusker Handicap: This is Grade III stakes race which is held annually at Prairie Meadows. It’s a 9-furlong race which is open to three-year olds and up.
  • Iowa Derby: Held annually at Prairie Meadow, this is an 8.5-furlong Listed event which is open to three-year olds.
  • Iowa Classic: This is a full-day event at Prairie Meadows with a fill race schedule which features Iowa-bred horses.