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It was achieved by a situation that will likely (and hopefully) never be seen again as all four major US sports were playing simultaneously while introducing the NCAA College Football season. However, the biggest factor was the overriding cloud of inhibiting bettors inside their homes or mobile to play online.
While a substantial amount of sports wagering was done online, not in Iowa casinos, attendance dropped onsite. To counter those effects, Iowa’s casinos are looking at ways they can attract more patrons with options like betting that does not rely on cash changing hands.
Wagering on college and professional football, along with Major League Baseball, NHL and NBA playoffs, NASCAR, soccer, and horse racing elevated September’s handle to almost $72.4 million. That established a monthly record for gambling activity, eclipsing a mark set in August 2019.
“You had all six major sports leagues playing games all in one day and that’s never been the case,” commented Max Bichsel, VP of US Business for the Gambling.com Group, a marketing company in the sports betting industry.
It’s been kind of a perfect storm in terms of what people have to wager on, what games are being played. There’s just a large buffet of games that you’re able to wager on at different times of the day and different types of sports so it really lends itself very positively to the Iowa sports betting market, that September was abnormal.
October is expected to continue the strong trend with Big Ten football remaining in play. Iowans must make note that the mandate that sports bettors register for an account onsite at a casino before being allowed to wager online ends on January 1, 2021.
The difference between onsite casino and online sports wagering was quite noticeable. Net receipts from sports betting in September was $5.1M on wagering of $50M online and approximately $22.4M on wagers places onsite at 18 of the 19 state-licensed casinos. Only Casino Queen in Marquette, Iowa has not begun sports wagering.
For the first quarter of fiscal 2021, Iowans have placed nearly $145.6 M in sports wagers that have paid out $135.2M in winnings. The approximate $10.4M in net receipts generated slightly more than $700,000 in tax revenue for the state.
Brian Ohorilko, administrator for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission commented, “There’s no question that people are wagering on college and professional football at a higher clip than what they were at this time last year,”
The state-licensed casinos operating in Iowa reported adjusted gross revenue of nearly $359M from July 1 through September. A quarterly total that was down nearly 4 % from a year ago when the gaming houses opened strong but faded when the coronavirus threat closed them for 11 weeks, said Ohorilko.
He also noted, “We were down less than 1 percent year over year from last September, ”Given the fact that attendance still is off 24 percent and all of the other things related to the pandemic, I think most of the operators would have signed up for that in a heartbeat if they knew that they would be relatively flat for the month of September given everything that has occurred.
“We certainly respect that many people are hesitant about going out whether it’s to restaurants or casinos or anyplace, and so the facilities are doing everything they can to follow all the protocols and guidelines,” said Wes Ehrecke of the Iowa Gaming Association, an umbrella group for the licensed casinos in Iowa. He noted monthly admissions slowly have increased since July for a quarterly total of 3,758,237.
If you walk into a casino, it’s very different than what it was last year at this time just in how it looks and the health checks that are being conducted at a number of facilities. Slot machines are spread out and a number of table games are closed, and procedures have changed to the point where they do feel a little bit different.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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