The Racing and Gaming Commission.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission renewed the licenses for the 19 state casinos it oversees during their meeting today in Altoona.

Racing and Gaming administrator Brian Ohorilko also released the economic impact information on the casinos for the last calendar year. “Over $1.1 billion has been attributed to the Iowa economy as a result of the casino industry in 2019,” according to Ohorilko. He says the figures include all the funds generated and expenses paid to operate the facilities.

“This would include things that are required statutory payments — like taxes — but also expenditures for various supplies, construction, payroll expenses, and charitable contributions,” Ohorilko says. “And so, when added together as a whole the impact for 2019 exceeded one-point-one billion dollars.”

Ohorilko says the IRGC has a policy that requires the casinos to seek Iowa vendors first. “Of that $1.1 billion, a significant amount of that money was spent with Iowa vendors or folks that reside in the state of Iowa. That is also something that commission focuses on, asks the operators to do,” he says. Ohorilko says 90% of the money spent in 2019 went to Iowa vendors.

The casino industry impact has topped the one billion mark for several years. Ohorilko says that was even more impressive this past year after a tough winter saw business way down early on. “Last year was a tough year for the industry due to weather and flooding,” Ohorilko says, “what has been nice to see — at least early on in January, February, and early March — numbers are up.”

He says the increased traffic this year is due in part to a milder winter. “But also we think some of it is attributed to sports wagering being offered in the state,” Ohorilko says. Sports betting began in mid-August and betters are required to register at a casino before they can bet, which casino operators say has helped bring in new customers.