he Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission approved Thursday more sports betting agreements for casinos, including the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City's new sportsbook, which won't start taking its first bets on professional and college sports until mid-September.
Eighteen of the 19 state-licensed casinos have sports betting licenses — but not all had their operations ready to go when they could legally start operating last week. Racing and Gaming Administrator Brian Ohorilko said an agreement for a three-casino group was also approved.
“Riverside, Grand Falls and Rhythm City — those are the three Iowa-owned casinos located in Davenport, Riverside and Larchwood — entered into an agreement with one of their corporate subsidiaries to conduct the advanced deposit sports wagering,” Ohorilko said, according to Radio Iowa. He added that agreement approval was one of the last steps for the casinos to move forward.
Six Iowa casinos began accepting bets on sporting events on August 15, making the state the 11th in the nation and first in the Midwest to allow such wagering. The Hard Rock had originally planned to join those casinos on the first day of bets. But some unresolved details with its third-party sports betting vendor forced the Hard Rock owners to withdrew their request for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to approve the agreement at the commission's meeting last month.
The IRGC at its meeting Thursday near Riverside unanimously approved the Hard Rock's agreement with Hard Rock Iowa, a partnership between Hard Rock Sioux City and Hard Rock International.
The casino had hoped to start taking in-person bets as early as Thursday. But Vice President of Operations Mike Adams said the Hard Rock now expects to go live by the middle of September. Online betting, in which gamblers place wagers on a mobile device after registering at a casino, will come along somewhat later, Adams said, as reported by Sioux City Journal.
"We're able to move forward, and we need to basically have our internal controls gone through one more time for approval, and then have some of our other processes tested," Adams said. "On the mobile application, this now allows us to take the product we have and begin the testing phases with that, to go for approvals. We're hopeful in the near future that we'll have that as the next option as well."
Hard Rock officials remodeled about 400 square feet of existing casino floor space for its new sports betting parlor as part of a $895,000 remodeling project. The casino won't take its first sports bets until after the NFL and college football seasons kick off. Most major college programs begin on August 24, and September 5 is the first Sunday for NFL play.
WinnaVegas Casino & Resort, owned and operated by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska near Sloan, also is eyeing a mid-September start for its sports betting. Blackbird Bend Casino, owned and operated by the Omaha Tribe near Onawa, is looking at a mid-October date for its first sports wagers. As tribal casinos, Blackbird Bend and WinnaVegas are going through a slightly different process than the 19 Iowa casinos regulated by the IRGC.
Ohorilko said there are now 10 retail operations, and he expects the Q Casino in Dubuque to have its retail operation going early next week. There are four casinos that are already offering online betting. He said the paperwork and approvals will continue until everyone is up and running. “Things are slowly progressing and I anticipate in the next couple of weeks the majority of the casinos will be ready to start with their sportsbook retail operation,” Ohorilko said.
Ohorilko said he’s had a chance to talk with the casino managers that got up on and running on the first day last Thursday. “We are hearing that a number of people who are coming into casinos to participate in sports wagering are folks who either have not been into a casino or have not in some time,” he explained. “So, it will be interesting to see how this plays out as the market matures.”
The IRGC also approving a partnership between the Wild Rose casino chain, which has locations in Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson and DraftKings to offer sports betting in those casinos. The Wild Rose casinos also entered into a second sports wagering agreement with Rush Street Interactive.