For Casinos Near The College World Series, It’s Nice To ‘Play Ball’ Again

Written By Russ Mitchell on June 24, 2021 - Last Updated on December 6, 2022
college world series business

The Council BluffsOmaha area had to go an extra year without the ping of aluminum bats at the College World Series.

But baseball is back.

So are concerts.

Betting is too.

It’s welcome news for Rob Brown, the vice president of operations at Harrah’s and Horseshoe casinos in Council Bluffs.

The recently completed US Olympic swimming team trials and ongoing men’s College World Series create a high demand for lodging at the Caesars-owned casinos.

But Brown said the real engine behind the recovering entertainment industry can be found on the casino floor:

“Yes, we have some food and beverage pickup. But really, you get the gaming revenue.”

He added:

“It’s when you have a rain day at the World Series where a game gets rained out. That’s where — out of nowhere — you get packed. You can’t really anticipate that day. It could be Tuesday. It could be Saturday. And if it’s raining, people are looking for things to do. We’re kind of a natural fit, given the some of the clientele coming into town.”

No casinos in Nebraska yet; come to Iowa to bet

Several hotels are within walking distance over a pedestrian bridge that connects Council Bluffs, IA, and Omaha, NE. However, the states are a little farther apart when it comes to betting policies.

Nebraska is working on the regulation framework and construction schematics for Nebraska “racinos” in six cities, including Omaha.

Iowa, on the other hand, has decades of casino history. Iowa sports betting came to be in August 2019, but that wasn’t in place in time for the 2019 College World Series. The 2020 series was lost to the pandemic, of course.

Teams see College World Series runs end

It might be check-out time for fans of Arizona, Tennessee and Stanford. They all saw their College World Series runs come to end.

That leaves Vanderbilt, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina State and Mississippi State still in the mix.

Brown appreciates his year-round customers, but he likes the energy from out-of-state guests as well:

“Some of the powerhouse schools, like Texas, are here this year and Texas is quite often here. And they don’t have any casinos in Texas. They have some in Oklahoma and Louisiana, right across the border. But we get customers in here with their Texas shirts on. It’s people coming in that wouldn’t normally come. They are here because it’s minutes away from the action across the river. You can come over here, gamble and, stay, eat or whatever it happens to be.”

College World Series odds

This is the first year Iowa sportsbooks will be able to take bets on the College World Series.

Harrah’s and Horseshoe offer betting through the William Hill Sportsbook. In the past, bettors could only wager on the eventual College World Series champion. This year, the sportsbook takes wagers on individual games as well.

“To me, as a sports bettor and as a College World Series fan, I think it adds a whole another layer of excitement to the games and to the tournament here,” Brown said.

Bettors can place wagers from anywhere in Iowa with remote sports betting. College World Series guests will have to be on the Iowa side of the border to bet, however.

Staff on the Caesars Casino floors in Council Bluffs are happy to help with Iowa sports bets and casino gaming as well. Brown said:

“If you have a favorite team and you want to bet on them, or if you have a hunch even if it’s not your favorite team, come in and walk up to the counter and ask a couple of questions. It’s pretty simple, on how to do it. And, it adds another level of excitement to the game. Same thing goes for gambling. Gambling isn’t for everyone. But at the same time, just because you haven’t been in a casino or haven’t been to our casino doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it give a try.”

SportsbookDraftKingsWilliam HillFanDuelBetMGMBetfredBetRiversPointsBet
SpreadTexas -1.5 (+112)
Virginia +1.5 (-136)
Texas -1.5 (+100)
Virginia +1.5 (-120)
Texas -1.5 (+104)
Virginia +1.5 (-130)
Texas -1.5 (+100)
Virginia +1.5 (-125)
N/AN/ATexas -1.5 (+106)
Virginia +1.5 (-136)
TotalO 8.5 (-110)
U 8.5 (-110)
O 8.5 (+100)
U 8.5 (-120)
O 8.5 (+105)
U 8.5 (-115)
O 8.5 (-105)
U 8.5 (-120)
N/AO 8.5 (-109)
U 8.5 (-112)
O 8.5 (-112)
U 8.5 (-115)
MoneylineTexas -159
Virginia +128
N/ATexas -162
Virginia +128
Texas -175
Virginia +145
Texas -160
Virginia +130
Texas -162
Virginia +130
Texas -170
Virginia +132

Betting in Council Bluffs picks up steam

Brown has 22 years of experience in the gaming industry and taught a university-level casino course for about eight years. Nothing could have prepared him for 2020, however.

“When we closed, it was, it was a really, really odd time and obviously a low for me in so many ways. Now that we’ve reopened, it was kind of a slow ramp-up since the start of this year. But it has been picking up so quickly. In the last three months — two months, really — it has just been on fire. The amount of energy and excitement is instantly in the air.

“This past weekend, we had two sellout Stir Cove (concert venue) shows — over 4,000 people for each show. The energy, the fun, the whole dynamic with the concert and with the College World Series and with gaming all kind of coming together: People are in great moods. People are in great spirits and people are just happy to be out. It’s like they’re almost rediscovering the things they like to do, again.”

Brown sees a morale boost from the casino staff as well. “I think it’s on both sides of the table,” he said.

Photo by Rebecca S. Gratz / AP
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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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