July Iowa Casino Revenues Are The Calm Before Sports Betting’s Storm

Posted on September 15, 2019 - Last Updated on September 14, 2019

The 2019 college football season has arrived. This year the Cyclones, Hawkeyes and Panthers appearing on the gridiron comes with a new twist that makes the July Iowa casino revenue numbers more relevant.

Iowa sports betting, including on college games, is now legal. Eight casinos in the Hawkeye State have opened sportsbooks.

The revenues at those eight casinos from July give operators a good look at how their businesses are doing prior to the launch of legal sports betting in Iowa. Because of that, industry analysts can start to form opinions about the impact of sports betting in the state.

July Iowa casino revenue by the numbers

Although the state’s monthly report has figures for all 19 Iowa casinos, getting an idea for how sports betting will impact gaming in the state only requires the numbers from the eight facilities that opened sportsbooks. Those are:

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

Prairie Meadows retained its title as the revenue king in the state during July, reporting an adjusted gross revenue (money in minus winnings paid out) of $17.6 million for the month. The other seven facilities’ adjusted gross revenues for July in descending order were:

  • Ameristar Council Bluffs: $13.3 million
  • Riverside: $8.1 million
  • Isle Waterloo: $6.8 million
  • Rhythm City: $6.5 million
  • Isle Bettendorf: $5.6 million
  • Lakeside: $4.4 million
  • Catfish Bend: $3.2 million

While those figures seem like huge amounts to the average person, it’s important to remember that all the casinos’ operating expenses plus local and state taxes are paid out of those revenues. Anything left over at that point would be profit.

For example, Prairie Meadows paid almost $3.8 million in taxes during July. That amounts to about 21.6% of its revenue for the month.

While these numbers give us some idea of how these casinos are performing immediately before their sportsbooks opened, it’s important to understand how sports betting could affect their numbers.

New revenue vs. shifted revenue in Iowa’s casinos

One aspect that will be interesting to watch is how many new patrons visit these eight casinos. Ameristar, for example, reported almost 133,000 admissions during July.

If there is a significant spike in admissions in August, that would suggest sports betting is having the intended effect. Sports betting is not in and of itself a big moneymaker.

The lure for casinos in operating sportsbooks is the hope that they will increase foot traffic. The investment pays off when bettors also play slots or table games.

Sports betting revenue will be the other number to watch when August’s report comes out. That won’t necessarily be new revenue for casinos, however.

It’s possible that patrons could simply spend less on slots and table games to place bets on things like Iowa Hawkeyes futures. If admissions stay steady and overall revenue does the same in August, that will be a clear sign that sports betting revenue isn’t new but rather just shifted.

Revenue being shifted to sports betting is a loss for casinos, as the profit margin isn’t as good. Sports betting pays off when it attracts new guests who spend money they otherwise would have spent elsewhere.

When the August report comes out, Iowa casinos will start to see whether their investments have paid off. July’s numbers give them a solid base for comparison.

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Derek Helling

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