Sportsbooks Have Intended But Small Effect On Iowa Casino Revenues

Posted on October 20, 2019

Iowa casinos are increasingly investing in sportsbooks. Based on August Iowa casino revenues, it looks as though there is some return on that investment.

Though Iowa sports betting was legal for just the last half of the month, it still acted as a lure for Iowa residents and visitors. The proof is in the numbers.

Setting up a comparison for August Iowa casino revenues

While many factors play into casino revenues, August is traditionally a slow month. That’s because of social norms like casino patrons opting to spend their income on vacations.

Despite the reputation, August 2019 wasn’t a horrible month for Iowa’s casinos. That especially applies to those that got in on sports betting.

The eight casinos that opened sportsbooks before September were:

  • Ameristar Council Bluffs
  • Catfish Bend
  • Isle Bettendorf
  • Isle Waterloo
  • Lakeside
  • Prairie Meadows
  • Rhythm City
  • Riverside

Admissions to and revenues at those casinos during the month directly preceding the legalization of sports betting in Iowa showed the effects of summer vacations. At each facility for July 2019, those were:

  • Ameristar Council Bluffs: 132,806 admissions and $13.31 million in revenue
  • Catfish Bend: 53,450 admissions and $3.16 million in revenue
  • Isle Bettendorf: 71,285 admissions and $5.56 million in revenue
  • Isle Waterloo: 77,712 admissions and $6.76 million in revenue
  • Lakeside: 48,748 admissions and $4.36 million in revenue
  • Prairie Meadows: 261,751 admissions and $17.59 million in revenue
  • Rhythm City: 105,655 admissions and $6.49 million in revenue
  • Riverside: 140,936 admissions and $8.1 million in revenue

To get an idea for what kind of impact two weeks of sports betting had at those facilities, the same numbers at the same venues can be considered.

How the numbers with sports betting stack up

The admissions totals and adjusted gross revenues from those same eight casinos during August 2019 tell a tale. The raw numbers are:

  • Ameristar Council Bluffs: 138,640 admissions and $13.61 million in revenue
  • Catfish Bend: 64,048 admissions and $3.39 million in revenue
  • Isle Bettendorf: 71,342 admissions and $5.46 million in revenue
  • Isle Waterloo: 81,977 admissions and $7.12 million in revenue
  • Lakeside: 48,529 admissions and $4.55 million in revenue
  • Prairie Meadows: 259,100 admissions and $17.83 million in revenue
  • Rhythm City: 108,844 admissions and $6.65 million in revenue
  • Riverside: 139,969 admissions and $7.99 million in revenue

In terms of revenue figures, six of the eight casinos improved on their July numbers. At the same time, five of the facilities reported more admissions.

The total admissions for all eight facilities increased an impressive 17.6% while revenues went up 1.9%. And comparing August’s numbers to September’s could look even better.

Why September’s casino figures could improve

Not only will September be the first full month of sports betting, but it will also benefit from more access. Six more sportsbooks have opened since August 29.

Because of that, Iowa residents and visitors have more options, and that means better access. While mobile sports betting is legal in Iowa, bettors have to register in person. That requirement is in place until New Year’s Day 2021.

That requirement, along with more access, could produce more admissions and higher revenues for a greater number of Iowa casinos as fall starts. While other factors like families getting back into school routines play a part, sports betting undoubtedly has an impact.

Land-based sportsbooks may feel an impact when the in-person registration requirement fades away, and casino traffic may suffer as well, but for now it seems to be a slight benefit. The numbers from next month will tell a fuller story.

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Derek Helling

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