Iowa casino bets big on sports betting; partners with William Hill U.S.

One of 19 commercial casino licenses in the state to be renewed by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission this past spring, Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel recently announced it has signed a partnership agreement with the U.S. arm of British bookmaking giant William Hill PLC (LON:WMH), to run the Altoona casino’s sports book in the event the Midwestern state legalizes wagering on sporting events.

According to the Des Moines Register newspaper…

The Polk County-owned casino is, as part of a larger remodel, building an 8,600 square foot sports book near the horse racing center situated on the casino’s fourth floor. People will be able to view live betting odds and sporting events at the area’s bar and state-of-the-art video wall, both to be included in the build.

At the forefront:

The Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racetrack casino is the first of the state’s 19 commercial casinos to have formally declare plans for a sports book and a sports betting partnership since the May 14, 2018 overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the federal law that effectively outlawed sports betting nationwide, excluding a handful of states for the last 25 years.

Current sports betting picture:

To date, a total of eight states have full-scale legalized sports betting, including New Jersey, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Delaware, while bills have been passed in Arkansas and New York and Connecticut have put partial laws in place pending further action.

A further five states including Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Virginia have bills pre-filed for this year’s legislative session.

Interest and imminence:

President and Chief Executive Officer for Prairie Meadows, Gary Palmer, thinks that sports betting in the state is “an exciting proposition,” and that there is “unbelievable interest,” according to the news agency.

Palmer isn’t alone, as Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, is reportedly planning to introduce sports betting legislation sometime within the next two weeks. Any such legislation proposed in the Iowa House would be considered by the House State Government Committee, which Kaufmann chairs. He is also reportedly planning to hold a subcommittee meeting on the legalization of sports betting by the end of this month.

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“I’m not going to say it’s unanimous, but I’ve had a lot of (legislators) come to me favorable and not nearly as many coming to me unfavorable,” said Kaufmann.

While open to supporting sports betting legislation, Democrats including Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha and Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, want to know where revenues would go and that safeguards are in place.

“Here’s how I kind of look at it: If it’s coming and it’s here and we have gaming in the state of Iowa, it’s better to get ahead of it and control some of the provisions of it and where the money is going to go and how the state of Iowa can benefit from it,” said Mathis.

Hunter said,  7BALL “We’ve got to make sure that it’s regulated properly, that we have enough safeguards in there, that some 14-year-old kid can’t go in there and all of a sudden use dad’s credit card and rack up a thousand dollars’ worth of betting on it,” according to the Des Moines Register.

Iowa Gov. rings in:

Meanwhile, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said in September, “there are a lot of questions to be answered,” about what sports betting could look like in Iowa.

“What we are doing is working with the Legislature, working with the different agencies to see what that would look like and how it would be implemented,” she reportedly said while campaigning in the fall for the governor’s race.

Stateside ops:

The stateside arm of the bookmaker founded in 1934 in the United Kingdom is the largest sports book operator in the United States, with operations in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey. It currently operates 108 race and sports books in Nevada. 

Chief Executive Officer for William Hill U.S., Joe Asher said that they are “thrilled” with the new partnership with Prairie Meadows and with the plans to construct a sports book that will make it “the place” to bet on and watch games, according to the Des Moines Register citing a news release.

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Waiting game:

Palmer reportedly said that they expect for construction to be completed by the second week of February and for the betting area to be open for business as soon as a bill is passed by the Legislature and the rules are written by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

Prairie Meadow’s president and CEO added that if the legislature fails to pass the sports betting bill, the casino will utilize the remodeled area for horse racing simulcasting.