Iowa Casino And Sports Betting Revenue Flatlines In July

Written By Hill Kerby on August 18, 2023 - Last Updated on November 18, 2023
Casino and sports betting revenue in Iowa flatlined in July

July continued a downward trend for Iowa casinos and sportsbooks, with both verticals seeing declines in monthly revenue.

The Hawkeye State’s 19 retail casinos generated $150 million in adjusted gross revenue, down 4.5% from $157.2 million a year ago.

Sports betting handle totaled $109.7 million, up 1% year-over-year. However, sportsbooks’ reported $10.6 million in revenue fell 5.4% YoY from $11.2 million in July 2022.

Challenges for casino growth

IA online casinos are prohibited even though online sports betting has been a success. Unfortunately, there’s no push at this time to allow online gaming in the state.

Casino revenue has remained on a plateau in 2023. June punctuated a Fiscal Year 2023 casino revenue that totaled $1.75 billion, a -0.7% drop from FY 2022. Casino revenue grew by 12% in FY 2022, to put it in perspective.

July’s numbers may have increased from June, but they still confirm what we already knew: Help is not on the way, especially while the costs of goods and living continue to rise.

  • January: $136.1 million (+4.2% YoY)
  • February: $143.2 million (+0.8% YoY)
  • March: $159.9 million (-2.3% YoY)
  • April: $153 million (-6.3% YoY)
  • May: $143.7 million (-5.5% YoY)
  • June: $141.8 million (+2.6% YoY)
  • July: $150 million (-4.5% YoY)

There are two primary reasons why Iowa casinos have failed to continue growing.


Iowa is amidst a two-year moratorium on casino expansions. Furthermore, a new casino hasn’t opened since 2015. Failing to increase that number in nearly a decade was bound to catch up at some point.

Several unsuccessful attempts at opening a casino in Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city, date back to 2014. Efforts continue during the moratorium, with support from the Cedar Rapids Development Group and Linn County Gaming Association.

But 2024 is the earliest it could get the green light. If Gov. Kim Reynolds extends the moratorium through her time in office, we’re looking at no new casinos until at least 2027.

IA online casinos represent another opportunity for growth. States with legal online casinos see their revenue run laps around sports betting totals, yet momentum to bring them to Iowa is crawling far too slowly.

Competition from Nebraska

Iowa’s western neighbor recently opened its first state-licensed casinos. Nebraska’s 2023 revenue is $48.7 million through July, less than 5% of Iowa’s $1.03 billion.

That number will continue to grow as more Nebraska casinos join the market. Harrah’s Columbus became the third Nebraska casino in June, and three more will follow in Omaha, South Sioux City, and Ogallala.

War Horse Omaha plans to open next year just across the river from Council Bluffs and will present the greatest threat to date for its three casinos. Will the state take notice?

Sports betting hits 2023 low point

Historically, July is the slowest sports betting month of the year. This year was no different, with a lack of major sporting events, higher prices and families on summer vacations.

The 1% yearly increase in betting volume was not enough to offset a drop in Iowa sports betting revenue. Revenue stayed above $10 million due to a respectable 9.6% hold, but sportsbooks performed even better in July 2022 in that category (10.3% – the nationwide average sits around 8%).

Individual results varied. Many operators met or exceeded the 9.6% hold, including DraftKings Sportsbook IA, FanDuel Sportsbook IA, BetMGM Sportsbook IA, and PointsBet Sportsbook IA

However, Barstool returned a $5,415 loss for the month despite its $4.4 million in wagers (-0.1% hold). 

Barstool’s days are numbered after PENN Entertainment parted ways in favor of a new deal with ESPN. No date for the transition has been set, though, and the Barstool retail sportsbook remains open inside Ameristar Council Bluffs.

That will change soon enough, especially with the 2023 NFL season beginning in less than a month. The new ESPN Bet Iowa will be a bigger draw than Barstool, but it won’t challenge the top dogs, nor will it significantly boost Iowa sports betting.

August will be another slow month, but September’s kickoffs are right around the corner. Come the fall, we’ll be looking at handles above $200 million again.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby is a proponent of safe, legal betting, and is grateful to be able to contribute to growing the industry. He has a background in poker, sports, and psychology, all of which he incorporates into his writing. He now brings his experience to PlayIA.

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