State regulators to review new gambling studies on Cedar Rapids, overall market

Gambling market studies conducted for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission show the potential impact on the market for a new casino in Cedar Rapids and casino gambling in Nebraska.

The IRGC will hear presentations on the surveys at their meeting next week. Racing and Gaming Administrator, Brian Ohorilko, says the Cedar Rapids information will answer some questions and help them determine if there should be a casino thereafter a license was denied in their last attempt.

“What has changed since 2017? In other words, is there a projected impact of other casino licenses in the state? If there is, at what rates? Are those rates higher or lower than projected in 2017? And also, what is the projected new revenue,” Ohorilko says.

One of the two studies shows not much has changed and a Cedar Rapids casino would take revenue from Waterloo, Dubuque, and Riverside. The other study projects that loss to existing casinoes of 61 million dollars. The commission will get a full review of the studies at their meeting next week. The studies also look at the impact of casinos opening in Nebraska.

“And that was a very important piece of this study. Is looking at the impact of Nebraska and really trying to help everyone prepare for the years to come,” he says. Ohorilkoh says the studies give a little more detail on the Nebraska situation. “It is not a surprise that the addition of gambling in Nebraska was going to impact the Iowa market — specifically the Council Bluffs market and the Sioux City market,” according to Ohorilko. The
Council Bluffs market is currently Iowa’s largest market as a whole in terms of revenue.”

Projections are that the Council Bluffs casinos could lose 45 percent of their market to new Nebraska competition. The report estimates Sioux City’s Hard Rock casino could see a loss of 50 million dollars in adjusted gross revenue. Ohorilko says Iowa casinos need to prepare for that eventuality.

“We’ll get a chance to take a close look at these studies and see what is projected, and that may help some of the Iowa operators decide how they might respond,” Ohorilko says. “And they could respond by infusing additional capital into their facilities. There may be marketing strategies that are employed.”

The study also details the impact of a Wisconsin casino on the Iowa markers and the impact of Video Lottery Terminals in Illinois. “Those are devices that are throughout Illinois and the addition of some casinos in Illinois as well. So, their studies not only are helpful for the things that maybe we have a general understanding of how they may impact Iowa — but it also helps understand other factors that are lesser-known,” Ohorilko says. There are also two socio-economic studies that the IRGC will review at their meeting next week in Altoona.

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