The Casino Queen is set to become a land-based operation. (photo from Casino Queen website)

The number of Iowa casinos that float on a boat will soon be sinking. Iowa Racing and Gaming Administrator Brian Ohorilko says plans were approved Thursday for the Casino Queen operation in Marquette to move to land.

“They’re proposing to invest 12 million dollars into a land-based facility that would connect with their current barge area. They would add a sports book, a new restaurant,” he says. The first gambling in the state was at horse and dog tracks, and then the Iowa Legislature approved casinos on riverboats in 1989. The regulations changed quite a bit through the years and the trend now has been for casinos to move to land.

“With casino Queen moving gaming to their to a land-based area that will lead just Lakeside and Ameristar Casino (Council Bluffs) as the two remaining gaming licenses that still have casino gambling on a boat,” he says. Casinos in Davenport and Sioux City are some of the others to move to solid ground. Ohorilko says they have seen an immediate improvement in gaming revenue and attendance in operations that move from a boat to land.  “The reasons for that are very simple — in that it typically on a land base facility –, there is more space to offer, not only additional gaming but most importantly, additional nongaming amenities,” Ohorilko says.

The Racing and Gaming Commission also approved 31 million dollar remodeling plan for Harvey’s in Council Bluffs that he says will include several upgrades. “A new Celebrity Chef Restaurant, a Guy Fierie restaurant, renovation of all of their hotel rooms, some additional space for gaming, just to allow for a more comfortable experience for those guests,” he says.

And the Commission approved phase one of a multi-million dollar renovation plan for the Q Casino in Dubuque. Ohorilko says the upgrades are needed in part due to new competition from others states. He says Harvey’s is a good example of that.
“Nebraska has gaming, we’re starting to see some construction there, particularly in the Omaha market. And so, it’s really important for those Iowa facilities to put their best foot forward,” Ohorilko says. He says the non-gaming amenities have become an important part of the casinos widening their draw and competing with other states.

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