Many people waited in line at the Amerisports Bar & Grill inside the Ameristar Casino Thursday in celebration of Iowa’s lift on the sports gambling ban.
The Iowa Legislature passed a sports-gambling measure last spring, making it the 11th state to implement legal sportsbooks to date. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission set Thursday as the first date for legal betting.
Iowa is the only Midwestern state with legalized sports betting. Indiana is set to start next month, and Illinois has approved it but could be several months away from startup because rules are still being drafted.
That means sports betting enthusiasts are likely to travel to Iowa casinos from adjacent states to sign up and boost business for border casinos including Ameristar in Council Bluffs, where General Manager Paul Czak expects players from Nebraska and Missouri.
Ameristar invited Tim Dwight, a 10-year NFL veteran and two-time All-American selection for the Iowa Hawkeyes, to place the first bet, but Dwight didn’t make any wagers on the Hawkeyes.
In the newly renovated betting area at Ameristar, Dwight put $100 on the Chicago Bears winning the Super Bowl next year for a chance to win $2,100.
Although fans of sports gambling are winning today, Dwight said he might have a hard time keeping track of the receipt.
“It’s tough to bet on the Hawks right now, but the Bears were a kick away last year,” he said.
Iowa law — which is limited to those 21 and older — now permits legal betting on professional, college and international sporting events, fantasy sports contests and internet fantasy sports betting. The law excludes bets based on performances of individual players for in-state college teams.
Many Iowa and Nebraska residents expressed excitement on Thursday, picking out their game sheets and lining up to make their bets. Others used the kiosks to place their bets, an alternative that Ameristar provided to its guests.
Czak expects a significant number of Nebraska Cornhuskers fans to cross the Missouri River and place bets.
“When I looked yesterday Nebraska was 3-to-1 odds to win their half of the Big 10, 12-to-1 to win the Big 10 and 66-to-1 to win the national championship,” he said. “So I would guess there will be a lot of futures bets being placed tonight and this weekend for those kinds of things.”
Seven other Iowa casinos opened sports betting parlors Thursday, according to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission:
• Prairie Meadows, Altoona
• Lakeside, Osceola
• Isle Waterloo
• Isle Bettendorf
• Rhythm City, Davenport
• Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, Riverside
• Catfish Bend, Burlington
Although the ban was lifted today, some casinos are still ironing details of this new attraction.
Right now, betting is only available in-person at the sportsbook and kiosks at Ameristar, and it will be made available by app, but not until mid-2020, said Ameristar’s general manager Paul Czak.
Until then, individuals will have to travel to the casinos and make their bets.
“We started planning as the case was going through the Supreme Court loosely. There have been a lot of people who have worked hard on this and it’s exciting to see this come to fruition,” Czak said.
Initial licensing fees to adapt sports gambling costs $45,000 and require a $10,000 annual renewal fee, according to the American Gaming Association. The state sports wagering tax is set at 6.75%.
Unlike Ameristar, other hotels have scheduled openings for later dates or not at all.
Harrah’s and Horseshoe Casinos aren’t opening their sportsbooks until Aug. 23. Jill Beasley, vice president of marketing for Harrah’s, said the casinos have invited Heisman trophy-winning Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch and WBO welterweight boxing champion Terence “Bud” Crawford to make the first bets.
Eventually most of the state’s 19 state-regulated casinos are expected to offer sports betting.
Carter Lake’s Prairie Flower Casino is not offering sports betting at this time.
“The Prairie Flower Casino will continue listening to guests as we evaluate how we can enhance their entertainment experience in the future,” stated Larry Wright, Jr., Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Chairman.
— The Associated Press and BH News service contributed to this report.