Iowa Casino Gaming Making Bank, ‘Significant’ Contributor to State Revenues in 2018

Posted on: May 26, 2019, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: May 24, 2019, 01:04h.

A new report from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) indicates that the Hawkeye State hauled in approximately $1.5 billion in casino gaming revenue in 2018, the best figure for the state in six years.

They may not have the glitz and glamor of the Las Vegas Strip, but Iowa’s brick-and-mortar casinos are pulling their own weight in terms of helping the state meet its annual budget needs. (Image: Telegraph-Herald)

That increased revenue resulted in $321.86 million for Iowa coffers last year, even as the sheer numbers of gamblers coming in to Iowa casinos declined.

… the gaming industry paid significant revenue to the state and helped fund numerous projects and programs on the local level,” the IRGC report — which was delivered to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this year — stated.

Gaming revenue in Iowa has been steadily increasing following an economic slowdown in 2013. Today, the state’s economy is strong, supporting increased spending on leisure and non-essential activities, such as casino visits.

Iowa’s jobless rate is just 2.5 percent, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the US, and personal incomes there are up 5.5 percent over the past three years.

Raking It In

The IRGC report features data for 19 casinos operating in the state. More than 20 million admissions at Iowa casinos last year resulted in total slot revenue of $1.31 billion and a final table take of $156.80 million, for adjusted gross revenues of $1.46 billion, according to the IRGC.

Iowa gaming taxes fund programs and projects such as the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, revenue bonds, and debt service and a job creation fund.

Last year, the Horseshoe Council Bluffs generated $37.50 million in gaming tax revenue, the highest among the licensed gaming properties in Iowa. That casino has over 60,000 square feet of gaming space, including more than 60 table games and 1,400 slot machines. It’s operated by Caesars Entertainment and owned by VICI Properties, Inc.

The Ameristar, also in Council Bluffs, accounted for $33.41 million in gaming taxes last year, the second-highest tally among Iowa casinos. A riverboat, Ameristar has 38,500 square feet of gaming space and features 51 high limit slot machines and five tables for high rollers.

Sports Betting for Fresh Blood

Earlier this month, Iowa became the 11th US state to legalize sports betting, an effort that could stem the tide of declining admissions at the state’s casinos. The sports betting legislation takes effect July 1 and allows Iowa casinos to offer retail sportsbooks.

The IRGC will regulate the state’s sports betting industry and is hoping to have rules hammered out and in place by July or August, prior to the start of the college football and NFL seasons.

Once fully operational, sports wagering could generate $5 million to $10 million in annual revenue for Iowa. The state’s sports gaming law also legalizes daily fantasy sites, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, but features some restrictions on some college betting, including no in-game prop bets.

Some Iowa casinos were preparing for legalized sports wagering before the bill became law. Earlier this year, Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Altoona unveiled a partnership with William Hill to develop an 8,600-square-foot sports book.

IRGC expects bettors will be able to make sports wagers in Iowa prior to the start of football season. In the meantime, daily fantasy games are open for business in the state.