Sports betting off to hot start at Sioux City casino

Sports betting off to hot start at Sioux City casino

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Hard Rock Casino sports book

A customer places a bet Sept. 20 at the sports book inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City, Iowa. 

SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- Gamblers at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City wagered over $1.2 million on football, baseball, basketball and other sports during the downtown casino’s first full month of sports betting.

Sports wagering became legal in Iowa in mid-August, but the Hard Rock didn’t take its first bets until Sept. 20. During those final days of September, the casino’s handle totaled $282,652. In October, it grew to $1,220,939.

Anthony Torres, Hard Rock's director of sports book operations, said the downtown casino is well on its way to exceeding its initial sports books projections for the last half of 2019.

"We're going to hit the six month's goal in 103 days," Torres said Wednesday. "I'm really excited about the volume we've been getting. The customer loyalty has been outstanding."

The casino continues to see lots of first-time sports betters, he added.

"Week after week, we're still getting, 'Hey, this is the first time I've done this. Can you help me?'" he said.

Among Iowa's 19 state-licensed casinos, the Hard Rock’s sports betting handle was the 11th highest in October, according to figures released this week by the state Racing and Gaming Commission.

Prairie Meadows in suburban Des Moines was the runaway leader with over $17.8 million in bets. Isle of Capri in Waterloo had the second most, with nearly $3.8 million, followed close behind by the $3.7 million bet at Ameristar, one of three casinos in Council Bluffs.

The Hard Rock’s numbers have room to grow. The casino currently only accepts sports bets placed by patrons inside the casino. Torres said Hard Rock expects to add online betting by early December.

Only a handful of Iowa's casinos currently offer gamblers an online option, which under state law requires patrons to first register at a casino. Out-of-state residents who register can place online bets on their cellphones or other devices, but only within Iowa's borders.

Grand Falls Casino Resort, located just across the border from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of the seven Iowa casinos offering both on-site and online sports betting.

In October, Grand Falls’ sports wagering handle totaled over $1.3 million, with $499,933 coming from online bets.

Grand Falls’ net receipts from sports betting totaled $212,547 in October, after paying out $1,116,173 in winnings.

The Hard Rock collected $182,704 in net receipts, after paying out $1,038,255 in winnings last month.

Overall, Iowa gamblers placed $46.5 million in bets in October, pushing the overall handle for wagers online or in person to $93.6 million since it became legal in mid-August. Sports betting increased from nearly $38.53 million in September.

The overall total of $93.6 million breaks down to nearly $51.4 million wagered online using apps offered by seven casinos, and $42.2 million in on-site wagers.

The Casino Queen in Marquette is the only state-sanctioned casino without a sports betting license.

Max Bichsel, vice president of U.S. business for the Gambling.com Group, a marketing company in the sports betting industry, said Iowa is early into sports wagering and still has an immature market that will expand significantly once all the casinos with state licenses offer sports betting and online options become more common.

“I think Iowa has a lot more potential to unlock,” Bichsel said.

Iowa’s decision to initially require in-casino registration for mobile sports betting apps is hindering online action and growth overall, he said, when compared with other states.

That requirement will end Jan. 1, 2021.

Overall revenue from sports betting — accounting for winner payouts — grew from $4.9 million in September to $5.6 million in October and stood at $12.78 million for the year to date, according to commission data. Sports betting has brought in $861,846 of state tax revenue based upon a tax rate of 6.75%.

The growth in sports betting does not appear to be coming at the expense of other forms of gambling in Iowa. For the first three months of fiscal 2020 — that’s July, August and September — overall gambling numbers at state-licensed casinos were up about 7% compared with the same quarter a year ago.

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