Some Iowa casinos are simply converted steamboats with entertainment complexes built on the docks. Prairie Meadows, at Altoona near Des Moines, is different. This is one of Iowa’s biggest gambling venues — second only to the Horseshoe at Council Bluffs. It is a racetrack, with both thoroughbred and quarter horse events. You can also bet via simulcast on races around the country from Prairie Meadows.
In addition to 85,000 square feet of casino gaming, there is now a retail sportsbook. Add to this a poker room, events center and conference facilities, plus multiple dining options and bars — and you’ll see the appeal of this huge resort.
This page gives you a detailed overview of the Prairie Meadows Casino in Iowa. You’ll find out about the venue’s sports and race betting facilities first below — including the online apps. After that the casino, poker and entertainment options are covered. Scroll to the end of the page to find out more about the rich history of this Des Moines casino.
You’ll be impressed by the size of the new sportsbook at Prairie Meadows, which contains multiple tables with rows of high-definition TVs all around. There is also a single huge screen, created by putting TVs together in a giant square. Even more TVs hang down from light fixture boxes on the ceiling.
You’ll be able to bet on just about every pro league, with plenty of college action also available. Options include motorsports, fighting sports (UFC, boxing) and golf, tennis and soccer. You can bet on the results of individual matches via money line, totals or spreads. Alternatively, you can bet on player or team props, or join bets together into parlays, teasers or round robins.
Prairie Meadows Sportsbook’s hours of operation are:
In total, five Iowa casinos have partnered with William Hill to bring apps and online betting to their players. You will find apps for both Android and Apple mobile devices, or you can access the platform via a responsive website. Registration is easy, though you do need to complete this in person at Prairie Meadows.
New players get an instant boost with $50 in free bets after they have bet their first $50. You’ll have access to all the pro and college leagues that you can bet on at the retail sportsbook. There are also innovative new bets and special promotions reserved for online bettors.
With a packed calendar of horse racing, there are plenty of opportunities to back a winner at Prairie Meadows. The dirt track hosts both thoroughbred and quarter horse (harness) meetings from April through to October each year. The highlight of each season is the Cornhusker Handicap, which is a Grade III stakes race.
Betting on horses is not restricted to events taking place on the track. Simulcast betting means you can bet on races around the country — and watch the action too. All bets (live and simulcast) are via a pari-mutuel system, which means money for each outcome (win, place, show, exacta and so on) is pooled. The money is then divided up among winning tickets.
You can bet on horses online in Iowa. This is not through the Prairie Meadows website though. Instead nationwide sites such as TVG and BetAmerica allow you to enter bets into the pari-mutuel pools.
With 1,700 slot machines, Prairie Meadows is big enough to give the resorts of Las Vegas and Atlantic City a run for their money. It also offers multiple table games, and a large poker room. This casino gives players a choice of smoking or non-smoking areas. In addition, it has innovative glowing “back light” table games.
Here are the current table game titles:
The poker room, found on level 2, is open 24/7 and features cash games, daily tournaments and bigger buy-in tournaments on specified days.
Casino reward programs track your play, offering bigger rewards the more you bet. The system at this venue covers betting, slots and table games. “Prairie Rewards” is more complex than many similar programs, though; there are nine tiers available, including the default “Gold” level you get just for signing up.
Once you get to “Black+” you are considered a VIP, with a host and event invitations offered alongside a long list of comps. At the other levels, you can redeem the points you collect for progressively larger amounts of free play. Members also get exclusive bonus offers, with additional discounts for those 55 and older.
There are plenty of extra promotions at Prairie Meadows. These include drawings that give away cars and cash prizes, and extra loyalty points on specified days. Also available are prizes for playing 30 different games, steak lovers’ promotions, horse racing specials and boosts to get you to the next loyalty card level.
Buffet options are a fixture at just about all casinos these days. The horse racing theme comes through at this casino — with the Triple Crown Buffet. This is split between the regular buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the specialty buffet. Special events are tied to holidays and feature prime rib. There is an additional buffet option at the Champions Bar. You’ll be able to bet while you eat in this venue.
An additional casual option is the Café at the Meadows, which is open for breakfast and has an extensive lunch/dinner menu, too. You’ll find sandwiches, wraps, salads, burgers, pizzas and deserts — alongside coffee.
Fine dining is available on level 1 at AJ’s Steakhouse. This restaurant celebrates steaks and chops — serving only the choicest cuts of beef. Hours are 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, and open to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday.
Furthermore, the Meadows has a conference center, casino bar and music venue that attracts many big-name acts on tour.
Unlike many casinos in Iowa, Prairie Meadows pre-dates the licenses awarded in 1990 for riverboat venues. It started off as a racetrack in 1989, just two years after groundbreaking. Things did not work out at first, with financial losses leading to bankruptcy in 1991.
The venue was saved by slots. In 1995, following a local referendum, the casino opened — though at this point table games were not legal in Iowa. It would be nine years before demand from players saw table games come to Prairie Meadows. These started in December of 2014, with a huge expansion of the facilities kicking off the following year.
This casino and racetrack venue is not owned by one of the big casino corporations. Instead, it is a local nonprofit owned by Polk County, with the profits helping to fund projects in the Des Moines area.
In 2019, sports betting was legalized in Iowa. With a race book already in place, this casino was in an ideal position to move quickly. In fact, it was among the first wave of casinos to open a sportsbook. An online betting site, which is a partnership with William Hill, soon followed.
There are a lot of activities going on at this venue, which is close enough to Des Moines to attract a lot of people. These include a dirt racetrack, which features a mix of thoroughbred and harness racing. You can bet on races around the country via simulcast — or bet on pro / college sports in the new William Hill sportsbook. If you can’t make the retail sportsbook, an online option is also available.
When it comes to casino gaming, this is a huge casino. The 1,700 slots mean there is something for everyone from reel slots to video progressives. Add to this a big range of table games, a poker room and a multi-level loyalty scheme, and you have a casino well worth checking out.