Casino operators say they are anxious to get sports betting underway after the Racing and Gaming Commission approved the emergency rules Tuesday setting the start date for August 15th.
The sports betting area at Prairie Meadows Casino in Altoona was the first to be approved as an ongoing renovation was modified to create the space. CEO Gary Palmer says it is ready to go and gives them something new to offer in the competition for customers.
“It’s another amenity. People can come out and make sports betting wagers,” he says, “there’s not a big profit margin in that — but it’s another amenity for our players to come out and new players to come out — and just enjoy of the fun of sports betting.”
Those wishing to place sports bets have to first visit a casino and register for an account. Palmer says the change in law allows gambling to become regulated like the horse racing and casino games that are already offered.
“In Iowa or probably around the nation, it’s been underground for so many years. They’re doing it anyway if they want to do it,” Palmer says. “Now it’s legal, the state has an opportunity to make tax on it. We can do it the right way at Prairie Meadows and have a lot of fun with it, have parties for special occasions, and have people come out in groups and enjoy sports betting and having fun.”
The general manager at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque, Wendy Runde, says it’s a big deal for them too.
“We’re excited, construction is underway. Probably won’t be taking bets on August 15th, but toward the end of the month and certainly by the kickoff of the NFL season,” Runde says.
Most of the casinos are partnering with outside companies that have experience in online betting. Runde says they also don’t expect a big bottom line impact.
“That’s the word from our company whose done sports betting for a long time in Las Vegas. Not a lot of profit, but what we all know is there’s mass appeal, mass interest,” Runde says. “And for traditional casino operators it’s exciting because this opportunity lends new visitors. It isn’t necessarily that guest that we see every day — this is a new demographic.”
She says they will use the sports gambling to try and get people into the sports book, the restaurants and the casino. “When there’s an event that we can plan around, we will be holding parties in those spaces,” Runde says.
At the Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City, general manager Jim Franke. is still working to get everything complete. “Everything is progressing along, we do have a small issue with our partnership agreement, just working out the final details We hope to work them out rather quickly and be ready to offer a great sports betting platform there in Sioux City,” Franke says.
He says the history of sports gambling indicates the online betting may take the lead. “I think we can go just with our partner’s experience and with the first 18 months as everyone comes in to set up an account we will get some onsite betting,” Franke says. ” I think the way mobile is taking off in all aspects of our lives, we would expect that to be a greater share of our business.”
Sitting on the western border of the state, Franke says they will see plenty of out-of-state sports bettors. “I think all of those (people in ) border communities are coming and visiting our site regularly anyway, so I would expect them to participate in the sports wagering as well,” according to Franke.
He agrees that getting more people in the doors is the biggest plus about adding sports betting. “It’s just another amenity that gives people another opportunity to come in have some fun, enjoy the facilities, watch the games, place the bets. I think it’s just another add to the entertainment options that we offer,” Franke says.
In Dubuque, Runde says part of the excitement is moving ahead with something new and seeing if it will be a success. “This is the a new animal and there is no way to tell that,” Runde says. Palmer at Prairie Meadows agrees.
“You know we’re very optimistic, but if you come back a year from now I will tell you exactly how it worked out But right now it’s kind of guess by golly,” according to Palmer. “We’re pretty optimistic that it’s going to be fun and it will be very successful for us as well.”
The Casino Queen in Marquette is the only one to not yet apply for a sports gambling license.