Iowa May Soon Have 20th Commercial Casino But Not Legal iGaming

Iowa has long been on iGaming advocates’ shortlist for the next state expected to legalize online casinos. However, it looks as though Iowa’s next legal gambling expansion step may be adding a 20th commercial casino to serve the state’s 3.2 million residents.

That’s because, on July 1, Iowa’s two-year moratorium on new casino construction will expire. At that point, Iowans can expect efforts to build a Cedar Rapids gaming facility to begin again.

That city’s been trying to add a commercial casino for years. However, the moratorium prevented it from seeking a gaming license from the state’s regulator, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC).

This year, state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann tried to extend that moratorium another five years. While his efforts to stop new casino construction succeeded in the House, the Senate failed to vote on the extension before the legislature adjourned on April 20. Similarly, the Iowa General Assembly took no action on his iGaming bill, HSB227.

So, while new casino construction doesn’t mean Iowa online casinos won’t eventually become a reality, one aspect of the Iowa online casino bill sponsor’s commercial casino Amendment H8392 is coincidental.

Kaufmann, R-Wilton, surprisingly used the argument most iGaming legalization opponents employed against HSB227 when he fought the moratorium expiration: The possibility of retail casino revenue cannibalization.

Online casino opponents suggested iGaming would pull revenue away from land-based casinos. Kaufmann said a 20th retail casino may take market share from Iowa’s current casinos.

Marissa Payne quoted Kaufmann on April 20 for The Gazette:

This is the perfect time to press pause until after a new study comes out to show cannibalization, saturation, what the impact of new casinos might look like.

In the amendment that didn’t make it past the Senate, language outlines a study that also examines iGaming’s impact on retail casinos.

IRGC Administrator Tina M. Eick told Bonus on May 6 that the state gaming regulator doesn’t have a casino study pending.

Kaufmann didn’t return repeated requests for comment on this story from Bonus. He faces an uncontested primary election on June 4.

Including its four tribal casinos, Iowa has over seven casinos per million residents, the eighth-highest density among the 50 states.

Iowa Retail Casinos Generate $2 Billion

Iowa houses 23 land-based casinos, according to the gambling trade group American Gaming Association (AGA).

The association’s State of Play map shows the state’s 19 commercial casinos generate most of the revenue. In 2023, the gaming facilities saw $1.95 billion in gross gaming revenue (GGR).

The most recent figures from Iowa’s four tribal casinos are from 2016 when they brought in $142.8 million.

Cedar Rapids Casino Plans

Cedar Rapids residents and interested onlookers will probably learn more about the city’s retail casino plans on May 23.

That’s when mayor Tiffany O’Donnell will present her State of the City 2024 address at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex.

O’Donnell may have provided a preview to Emma’le Maas of KWWL on April 22.

The mayor said:

It would bring immediate jobs certainly in the construction of the facility. We have workers at the ready for that. It would also provide hundreds of jobs inside, you can’t understand the power of economic development in terms of tourism, and amenities for our city … We are more ready than ever to get going. So it is our hope that we will have the opportunity to apply for the license. Not asking for any special treatment- just give us a shot.

Iowa Sports Betting Matures

One reason online gambling analysts believed Iowa online casinos would soon become a reality is that the state’s sports betting industry is already one of the older marketplaces.

According to Legal Sports Report, online sports betting revenue has reached $605 million since its inception in 2019.

Bonus and LSR are Catena Media publications.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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