Everywhere you look, Iowa casinos are expanding.
They’re expanding floor space, expanding game inventories for players, and expanding online opportunities, the latter perhaps if (and when) online gambling is approved.
Overall, the Iowa casino industry remains robust. The state reported earnings of $1.75 billion for Fiscal Year 2023. That’s just slightly down from the previous fiscal year, about 0.7%. The most obvious reason for the drop is Nebraska. Opening its first casino in September 2022, Iowa’s neighbor to the west currently has three in operation with plans for more.
The Nebraska casinos have definitely siphoned money away from the Iowa market, but what does a business do when its customers start going elsewhere? They produce a more attractive product. In the casino industry, one way to do that is expand current offerings. Iowa can’t open any new casinos for another year, but it certainly can improve the ones currently operating.
Harrah’s Council Bluffs adds 200 slots after expansion
Iowa currently houses 19 casinos. There’s a moratorium on new ones until June 2024. Unfortunately, Iowa online casinos are prohibited, so no relief to lost revenue can be found there for now.
Harrah’s Council Bluffs Casino and Hotel is working on a major $6 million renovation of its casino floor space. It will add an enhanced sportsbook creating a best-in-class wagering experience for Iowa sports bettors and 200 new slot machines including Buffalo Strike, Shamrock Fortunes, and Jackpot Carnival.
The hotel portion of Harrah’s will also start a $12 million remodel project in Spring 2024. Thomas Roberts, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Harrah’s and Horseshoe Council Bluffs said the growth allows Harrah’s Council Bluffs to elevate itself as one of the best gaming destinations in Iowa
“The growth of Harrah’s Council Bluffs will continue to allow us to bring the best in gaming and entertainment options to our guests.”
But Harrah’s isn’t alone in adding new slot machines to its floor. Here’s a quick look at what’s coming or is already in place on a casino floor near you:
- Diamond Jo in Dubuque has turned its high-limit room into a Fire Link game room with 16 Fire Link slots, including the exclusive Ultimate Fire Link Cash Falls. In September, the casino will add Timber Wolf Chief, where the hunt is on for the great white wolf symbol and Buffalo Gold Wheels of Rewards.
- Rhythm City Casino is bringing in The Wizard Of Oz – Over The Rainbow to the floor with a $10,000 jackpot and the Asian dragon-themed Jin Long Jin Bao.
- Riverside Casino is the first casino in the Midwest to unveil the Great Guardians Link, another game based on Chinese mythology with four symbols representing four guardians or four Gods.
Laying the foundation for online play
The conversation continues about Iowa legalizing online casino play sometime in 2024. The online casino industry continues to be a huge moneymaker for the six states where it is operating.
Michigan, a state with three times as many people as Iowa, made $1.4 billion in 2022 from adjusted gross receipts from its online gaming industry.
For the uninitiated, online gaming is like having the same casino experience on your desktop or mobile device. You can play slot machines or table games for real money through a secure connection.
The obvious advantage is the convenience for the player, who never has to wait in line for a spot at a table or near a hot slot machine. It’s also steadier than the sports betting market, which can fluctuate regionally based on the success of local teams.
The biggest tell that online casinos may be coming to Iowa comes from the casinos themselves. Lakeside Hotel and Casino now allows you to download its app and receive 500K bonus coins to use on its free-to-play A-Play casino platform on games for no real cash. And Ameristar Council Bluffs lets you play slot machines for fun through its Play Penn partner.
What does it mean for Iowa?
Competition is always good for the consumer. Iowa casinos are growing their offerings, which means more opportunities for players to win and enjoy their time at a casino.
Every new generation of slot machines is brighter and better. The games are sleek with themes, multipliers, and bonus rounds. They enhance the overall experience.
This will carry over to the online space as well if Iowa decides to go that route. Iowa casinos are not standing pat; they are growing in every possible way.