Iowa Poker Laws

Iowa Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in Iowa?

The state of Iowa has just a handful of regulations on the law books regarding poker within state lines. Thanks to plenty of government-licensed legal casinos, a lack of any legal language about online gaming, and just one line in the Iowa penal code about home poker games. Iowa is a sort of haven for poker players. As long as you follow the few regulations that exist, your private poker game is fully legal, and there are plenty of ways to play legal poker in the Hawkeye State.

Understanding Poker Laws in Iowa

For poker players in Iowa, state law giveth and state law taketh away. To be less obtuse about it: Iowa law prohibits nearly all types of gambling, but then Iowa law also offers copious exceptions to that prohibition. The end result for poker players is a cornucopia of ways to play poker for real cash in Iowa.

Let's back up a bit and talk about the prohibition part. If you look to Section 725.1 of the Iowa code, you'll find that state law prohibits playing any "game" for anything "of any value." So skill and chance aren't relevant concepts when you're discussing Iowa law as it relates to gambling - all that matters is the risk of something valuable. Poker - at least when you're playing it for real money or some other stakes with value - certainly qualifies as gambling in the context of this definition.

But like many of its counterparts, the state of Iowa has a bevy of regulated gambling available to residents and visitors. The full list of exceptions to the law for regulated operators of gambling activities is spelled out under Section 99B of Iowa law.

To save a bit of time, we'll summarize: you can play real-money poker in tribal casinos that feature poker rooms, including the WinnaVegas Casino. You can do the same at licensed commercial casinos that run poker such as the Horseshoe in Council Bluffs.

And the law in Iowa provides additional cover for home poker games, if you're so inclined. There are a number of specific characteristics that your game must display to qualify for the exception detailed in Section 99B, including:

  1. Everyone must have a "bona fide" social relationship
  2. No one can act as the "house" or make a profit from the game as an operator (as opposed to a player).
  3. No one can win or lose more than $50 in the game

So, to summarize: Real-money poker is legal in Iowa's commercial casinos, tribal casinos and - under restrictive conditions - in private home games. Otherwise, Iowa law would likely frown upon your poker playing once real-money becomes involved.

Iowa Law & Home Poker Games

Just about every state in the USA has exceptions to their gambling laws allowing for social gaming of all kinds, including home poker games. The state of Iowa takes it to the next level, making it very clear what constitutes a legal home poker game. The regulations that outline a legal home or social game of chance or skill comes from the Iowa penal code, Section 99B.12.

For a home poker game to be legal in Iowa, each player in the game has to have a former social relationship, meaning you can’t just be there to play poker, you have to know the host and other players outside the game. Social games are not allowed in schools, the poker game itself must be fair, with an even chance of winning for all players and the host, and the host is not allowed to charge any entry fee or rake any pots. Another interesting wrinkle in Iowa law says that all players in social games have to take turn dealing, and the state goes so far as to limit winnings and losses to $50 in each twenty-four hour day. Naturally, all players in Iowa social poker games have to be at least eighteen years old.

These restrictions make your average social poker game legal, though the restriction of $50 in winnings and losses might be a problem for those poker players who like high or even medium stakes games. Still, hosting a tournament in your home with a $50 buy-in would be totally legal in the state of Iowa, though this still limits the amount of aggression in most home contests in Iowa, if they want to obey state law.

Learn About Other State Laws

Iowa Casino Poker

As of this writing, a few privately-owned casinos operate within the state borders of Iowa. Thanks to the fact of private ownership, casino gaming is varied statewide, with some casinos operating as resort-style properties and others little more than a few rows of slot machines. These casinos are supervised by Iowa’s state gaming license board, which means Iowa makes a decent amount of revenue by allowing casinos and casino poker.
Finding a casino that offers poker in Iowa isn’t difficult, but you may have to strike out at a few slot machine casinos or horse racing tracks before you find a casino property offering poker. If you want to play casino poker in Iowa, stick to the larger casinos, which have everything from slots and classic table games to horse and dog racing wagers and poker rooms. If you are an Iowan and you want to play poker, and you want to get around the limited winnings and losses of home games, check out the larger casino properties that have fully-staffed poker rooms.

Is Online Poker Legal in Iowa?

The state of Iowa has no single piece of language in the penal code covering online poker or gambling. In fact, gaming law in Iowa doesn’t mention the internet at all, and the only restrictions for Iowans who want to play poker online are those imposed by the federal government. You can play legal online poker in Iowa without fear of interference by the state government.

More information to Iowa online poker & gambling laws [],