State Racing and Gaming administrator Brian Ohorilko says Iowa’s state-licensed casinos saw a bit of a turnaround in revenue in the fiscal year that ended on June 30th.
“Up approximately $25 million, about 1.8 percent year-over-year from last fiscal year,” Ohorilko says. The casinos took in roughly $4.2 billion in the fiscal year.
Revenues had dropped around four percent in each of the last two fiscal years. Ohorilko says the news is positive, but he isn’t ready to say the industry is reversing the recent trend. “Still kind of cautiously optimistic because 21 million of that (increase) was in the Sioux City market,” Ohorilko explains. He is cautious about the trend upward because Sioux City’s increase came with the opening of the Hard Rock casino downtown.
“When a new facility comes into the market, it does attract a lot of attention and so you do see initial bump in the numbers,” Ohorilko says. “In this case..this is a situation where a riverboat went to a land-based facility. So, in addition to that newness, you also see that bump just because the number of attractions a land-based facility can offer that a riverboat cannot.” He says things like hotels and restaurants that surround a land-based casino help bring in new customers.
Ohorilko says the weather also plays a factor in revenue, and things seemed to work out well. “We have the winters where sometimes when the winters are really harsh it is difficult. And if that bad weather hits on a weekend, that certainly affects revenue,” Ohorilko says. “But then also, in the spring and fall I think the economy and some the facilities that are outside the urban areas, they get a lot of income from how the agriculture markets are.” He says wet springs and falls dampen the outlook in the rural areas and can impact the number of people who visit casinos.
Falling gas prices seemed to have some impact on the casinos this past fiscal year as well. “We heard from a few operators the beginning of the calendar year — when the gas prices started to fall — that they thought there was more discretionary income in the hands of the customers. So, a number of facilities had indicate to me that that played a role in some of the numbers early in the calendar year,” according to Ohorilko.
Ohorilko says the opening of the new casino in Greene County will be one of the factors in this new fiscal year to determine if revenues continue to go up.