Before the curtain rises on the 2019 college football season, Omaha-area betting enthusiasts will be able to place legal wagers on the Huskers or the Hawkeyes at Iowa casinos.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission set Aug. 15 as the day sports betting may begin at state-regulated casinos at a special meeting Tuesday in Des Moines as it passed a set of “emergency” rules to get sportsbooks up and running in time for football.

The commission approved sports betting licenses for 18 of 19 casinos in the state, including all three in Council Bluffs: Ameristar Casino, Harrah’s Council Bluffs Hotel & Casino and Horseshoe Casino. Only the Casino Queen in Marquette is waiting until later, said Brian Ohorilko, the commission’s administrator.

“Aug. 15 is really the big date,” he said. “The question remains, how many operators will be ready to go?”

Ameristar will be ready to go on the 15th, with a new sports book area opening at 4 p.m. Former Iowa Hawkeye and Atlanta Falcons football standout Tim Dwight will be on hand to place the first bet.

Harrah’s and Horseshoe will hold a grand opening gala for their sports betting parlors eight days later, on Aug. 23, said Samir Mowad, senior vice president and general manager of the casinos.

“It’ll be the day before the very first football game,” Mowad said.

Iowa has become the 11th state to allow legal sports betting for adults, and the third this year, after the Supreme Court in May 2018 overturned a federal law that limited legal sports betting to Nevada. Iowa is the first in the Upper Midwest.

“We’ve been working on this ever since the Supreme Court ruled,” Ohorilko said. “So far, everything has been going through smartly. We haven’t heard of any snags.”

Legislators in Nebraska have not taken action to legalize sports betting. Gov. Pete Ricketts and other top elected officials have firmly opposed the expansion of legal gambling within the state.

The Iowa law, passed in May, permits legal betting on professional, college and international sporting events. It also legalizes fantasy sports contests and Internet fantasy sports betting. The new law excludes some forms of sports betting, such as bets on individual players for in-state college teams.

Residents of Nebraska and other states will be able to place sports wagers at Iowa casinos using a mobile app, but they will have to travel to the casino to set up an account in person. And because the app is geofenced within Iowa’s borders, out-of-state bettors will have to cross into Iowa each time they want to place a bet.

Ohorilko said at least 15 of the casinos are expected to have mobile apps to support their sports betting operations.

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Mowad said he hopes that the geofencing will prompt sports bettors from Nebraska — whom he expects to make up a big percentage of Harrah’s and Horseshoe customers — to stop at the Bluffs casinos and watch the games in person.

“At the point when they get in the car, maybe they’ll stop in and try the food from our kitchen and watch the 40 big-screen TVs,” he said. “We think we’re going to have big crowds.”

Mowad is hoping that sports betting will draw a new generation to his sites.

“It’s adding another community to the casino,” he said.

He’s also glad that Iowa is out in front of other states in the region. While Indiana may get sports betting in place by Sept. 1, Illinois isn’t expected to offer sportsbooks until 2020.

“It’s nice to be first in line,” Mowad said. “It was super important that Iowa was on the cutting edge.”

This report includes material from the Associated Press.