The IRGC is drafting rules and expects sportsbooks operating by early to mid-August

Iowa regulators approve sports betting plans for Hard Rock Sioux City and Grand Falls Casino

The Hard Rock will free up space for its sportsbook by remodeling 400 square feet of the casino’s high-stakes betting and wine bar area, which currently covers 8,000 square feet.
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Hard Rock will add 4 sports wagering windows with an overall project that will include new technology and fixtures, estimated at nearly USD 900,000; construction will begin on Monday. The IRGC on Thursday also approved a remodeling plan for Lakeside Casino. The rules could be posted on IRGC's website by July 1, and at a special July 30 meeting it will be accepting applications from casinos for a license.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) has approved plans from two Northwest Iowa casinos to add sports gambling facilities — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City and the Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood.

The Hard Rock will add 4 sports wagering windows by spending over USD 895,000 to renovate its wine bar and high-stakes wagering area, converting 400 square feet of existing casino space into a sportsbook. Grand Falls will renovate an entertainment area, freeing up existing space for its new sports betting area, and add 63 new hotel rooms. The IRGC on Thursday also approved a remodeling plan for Lakeside Casino near the southern Iowa city of Osceola.

The Hard Rock released a statement after having its plans approved: “We are pleased that the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission unanimously approved our remodeling proposal for our new sports betting area. This decision allows us the opportunity to start construction, which will begin on Monday. There will be additional meetings throughout the next couple of months prior to the implementation of sports betting, which we are looking to introduce to our patrons later this summer.”

The remodeling projects were approved on a conditional basis. The casino operators must qualify for a license, and the vendors they select to conduct the sports wagering must pass extensive background checks, administrator Brian Ohorilko said.

Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort, Larchwood.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill last month allowing sports betting. "It was already happening and this is a way to bring transparency and oversight to the industry and to really fold it under the racing and gaming," Gov. Reynolds said, as reported by Siouxland News. "I'm really proud of the integrity and the system that we have and I think that's the right place for it. So we'll see what casinos across the state are able to do with the new bill." Reynolds says she doesn't expect sports gambling to be a big revenue generator in the state.

Furthermore, Iowa regulators say they are on track to finalize rules that would allow state-licensed casinos to accept bets on most professional and college sports by early to mid-August. Its staff has been working “thoroughly and swiftly” to develop rules for the new form of betting, with a goal of posting the rules on its website by July 1, Ohorilko said, according to The Gazette.

He added the commission likely will hold a public hearing on the rules at its July 11 meeting at Prairie Meadows in Altoona. At a special July 30 meeting in West Des Moines, the five-member commission likely will take action on sports betting, including accepting applications from casinos, Ohorilko said.

“The industry is requesting a pretty aggressive timetable to have things implemented by August,” he told the commission at its meeting Thursday at Diamond Jo Worth Casino near Northwood. “We’re doing everything we can to do that, but making sure that we’re doing it the right way.”

In separate action at Thursday's meeting, the commission approved Elite Casino Resorts LLC's request to use Betworks LLC as a provider of sportsbook services for Elite's three Iowa casinos, which include Grand Falls, Riverside Casino & Golf Resort near Iowa City and Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport. The commission also approved Bally Gaming for sportsbook services at Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs.

Grand Falls' sportsbook, which will take over space currently used by weekend musical acts, will feature tables and booths for wagerers to watch their games on large screen monitors. The sportsbook also will have access to the casino's Center Bar and the adjacent Ruthie's Kitchen will serve food, general manager Sharon Haselhoff told the IRGC.  

The Hard Rock will free up space for its sportsbook by remodeling 400 square feet of the casino’s high-stakes betting and wine bar area, which currently covers 8,000 square feet. The construction, led by Sioux City-based W.A. Klinger, will cost about $150,000, while the overall project, which will include new technology and fixtures, is estimated at nearly $900,000, Hard Rock general manager Jim Franke said. He added that space will allow guests to watch games and betting lines. "In the wine bar area, there are already some TVs in there, and there will be some more put in to create an environment," Franke said.

The sportsbook area is nearby the entrance to the casino floor from a new parking ramp under construction. The Hard Rock partnered with the city of Sioux City on the $16 million ramp, which is expected to open in late September. The structure at Third and Pearl streets will have 535 parking spaces and 15,000 square feet of retail space.

Iowa’s law legalizes betting not only on pro and college athletics, but also on daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. The new law does not allow in-game bets — known commonly as proposition, or prop bets — on in-state college teams such as the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones.

At state-licensed casinos, including the Hard Rock and Grand Falls, visitors will be able to wager on games at employee-staffed windows or on their own at kiosks. After an initial registration at the casino, they also will be allowed to place bets online such as on their mobile devices.

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