The chair of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission says he doesn’t see any major issues facing the casinos in the state this year.
But, Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny says they are keeping an eye on another gambling issue — fantasy sports. “I think that’s the number one big issue in the state, and probably the country when it comes to gaming,” Lamberti says.
The fantasy sports industry has taken off, prompting some states to ban it as illegal gambling, which then led to lawsuits by the companies leading the operations.
Lamberti isn’t sure what may happen here. “It’s not really our role to get in the middle of it or give recommendations. But it’s something we’ll pay attention to — because if the legislature so chooses to have us regulate that — we need to be in a position to be ready to do that,” according to Lamberti. He expects the state-licensed casinos to remain on a steady footing this year.
“We started last year to see a little bit of a rebound, but as the farm economy kind of stays in a sustained level of not good times, I think we will have the potential to see that impact casinos,” Lamberti says. He says casinos have a broad customer base that includes those in the farm sector, and he says they are also competing with others for leisure dollars.
Lamberti doesn’t see any big movement either way for casinos. “I think from a financial standpoint, I think we’re in a period of kind of stability, maybe a little bit of some slow growth coming back from some fairly difficult years,” Lamberti says. “I don’t think anybody expects it to be a lot of growth, but I think they expect this year to be fairly stable from what we have.”
There are 19 state-licensed casinos in Iowa, which gaming officials say generate a one billion dollar annual economic impact.