Speck Of Gold In The Sports Betting Rush: Golden Nugget Wants To Stake Claim In IA

Posted By Russ Mitchell on May 24, 2021

Iowa’s favorable sports betting climate is certainly attracting major gaming operators from around the world, including Golden Nugget.

Executives from the iconic Vegas brand mentioned plans to bring its online sportsbook to Iowa bettors during an earnings call on May 17.

President Thomas Winter told the investors:

“We are especially pleased to announce our most recent market access agreements in Colorado with Z Casino and in Iowa with the Wild Rose Casinos, where our agreements cover both iGaming and online sports betting, legislation and regulatory approvals permitting.”

The company cannot establish “iGaming” — or online casino gaming — in Iowa yet; that’s not an authorized wager here. Winter said:

“In terms of the economics of new states, the first thing is: You really need to look at iGaming states versus sports in new states differently.”

Winter told investors it’s extremely difficult to get to profitability with a new sportsbook, saying “the real profitability comes when you add iGaming to that.” A sportsbook can help establish Golden Nugget’s player base, however.

Golden Nugget in Iowa ‘early next year’

Winter told investors Golden Nugget is looking forward to launching in Iowa, Colorado and Louisiana “early next year.”

Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) Administrator Brian Ohorilko said the company has started its groundwork:

“They have contacted our office and are starting to request some information. At this point time, we don’t have a signed agreement with an operator. It is our understanding, consistent with the conference call, that they are working with the Wild Rose folks.”

Wild Rose has casinos in Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson. Iowa code allows each location to offer up to three individually-branded online sportsbooks — or “skins.”

Since you can register for a sports betting account online in Iowa, Golden Nugget could partner with any of the three casinos. You wouldn’t have to initially visit a Wild Rose casino to sign up for the sportsbook.

Ohorilko said the company’s first opportunity to have a casino contract approved would be at the at the IRGC meeting in Burlington on June 3.

The next opportunity would be July 15 in Altoona. For step one, Ohorilko said:

“We’ll see an agreement between an online sports operator and a casino. Then, typically, we’ll receive applications and background reports and controls at a later step.”

Golden Nugget wants to fill the US map

Winter told investors Golden Nugget has at least four states ahead of Iowa in its launch plans. The company wants to focus on states that allow online gaming first:

“Next quarter, we are getting ready to launch online casino and sports in West Virginia and online sports in Virginia. In the fourth quarter, we plan to launch online casino in Pennsylvania and online sports in Illinois.”

It also has market access agreements for online casinos or sports betting in New York and through its affiliations with Golden Nugget casinos in Nevada and Mississippi. Winter said:

“As we ramp up our expansion into new markets, we will continue to make significant strategic investments in player acquisition. Each new jurisdiction will be slightly different.”

Chief Financial Officer Mike Harwell followed Winter in the earnings call and offered the following update:

  • Golden Nugget reported $26.7 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2021. That was up 54% from the same quarter a year ago.
  • Net income for the quarter came in at $69.6 million. There were some non-cash caveats, however.
  • Golden Nugget used $14.4 million for advertising and promotions. That compares to $3 million a year ago.
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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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