Iowa Delays Collecting Weekly Fees from Casinos During Pandemic

Posted on: April 13, 2020, 05:47h. 

Last updated on: April 13, 2020, 11:26h.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) is giving extra time to the state’s 19 licensed gaming properties to pay fees while casinos are shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Iowa Casino Fees
Brian Ohorilko, Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission administrator, said weekly casino fees will be deferred. (Image: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Typically, casinos pay the fees weekly. But last week the commission gave flexibility to the venues, and up to five weeks’ worth of fees from the casinos were delayed.

Brian Ohorilko, IRGA’s administrator, said the fees are charged based on how much regulation is needed for each of the casinos.

“Each casino pays a different fee,” Ohorilko explained to KIWA. “That fee is based on a formula that is dependent on the number of gaming agents that would be assigned to the property.”

Fees range from $2,000 to $3,500 a week. With racing costs added, Prairie Meadows pays the most, about $14,000 a week, Ohorilko said.

During this period of time when the industry is closed, the commission is deferring all regulatory fees for the agency,” Ohorilko was additionally quoted by KIWA. “The DCI [Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation] has also agreed to do the same.”

Iowa Casinos Remain Closed

Currently, Iowa’s commercial casinos are closed through April 30 after an order by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican.

“We support this difficult but necessary decision, as it is imperative to contain this coronavirus and slow its community spread,” the Iowa Gaming Association said in an online statement about the temporary closings. “We look forward to the day when we can … reopen to provide a fun patron experience and … bring back the employees who are the backbone of delivering stellar customer service.”

The association also notes shuttering the venues protects players, workers, and the communities in which casinos are located. When open, Iowa’s commercial casinos attract thousands of players and guests weekly, the association adds.

The state’s commercial casinos employ about 8,800 workers, many of whom are now furloughed by the casinos. “They’re just hopeful like everyone else that life gets back to normal and they can open up — even if it’s on a limited basis,” Ohorilko said.

In a recent Facebook post, Prairie Meadows told the public: Stay Home. Stay Safe.

…We all wait for this unprecedented event to pass. We are sanitized and ready to welcome you back when it is deemed safe. Blessings to all of you to stay safe and healthy,” the post adds.

Last month, Prairie Meadows donated six pallets of perishable food to the Des Moines Area Religious Council.

Iowa Gaming Association President and CEO Wes Ehrecke told the Des Moines Register in March “These are unprecedented times. It’s imperative for everyone to be cognizant of flattening the curve and minimizing the exposure to the virus.”

Ehrecke has stayed in touch with staffers from US Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst (both R-Iowa) about the federal stimulus package.

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

As of Sunday, Iowa’s total number of positive COVID-19 cases is 1,587. The total number of deaths is 41.

Iowa will see 565 COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic, according to a projection from the University of Washington, as reported by the Des Moines Register. Also, Iowa could see the “first peak” in coronavirus cases during mid- to late-April, the report adds.