Iowa Casinos Post Record Revenue in FY 2012
By Rod Boshart, Reporter
DES MOINES, Iowa – A new casino in northwest Iowa and a return of consumer confidence among Iowans spending their entertainment dollars closer to home helped Iowa’s state-licensed tracks and casinos post their best financial year ever with nearly $1.466 billion in gross adjusted revenue.
The fiscal 2012 gaming receipts were aided by the first full year of operation by the Grand Falls Resort in Larchwood, which helped to push overall yearly receipts above the $1 billion mark for the 15 riverboat casinos operating in Iowa, according to yearly numbers issued Tuesday by the state Racing and Gaming Commission.
Overall, the 18 state-licensed racetracks and riverboat casinos reported revenues of nearly $1.466 billion for the 12-month period that ended June 30, according to the commission’s fiscal 2012 report. The nearly $457.9 million in gross adjusted receipts at Iowa’s three state-licensed tracks was the second-best year ever – falling about $5 million short of fiscal 2008 – while the riverboat casinos topped $1 billion by more than $8 million during fiscal 2012.
Commission administrator Brian Ohorilko attributed the revenue growth of more than 3 percent over last year’s $1.38 billion total to the new Larchwood facility in northwest, which he said drew new players from outside Iowa’s border that helped grow the overall pot of money for the state’s gambling industry. Gaming revenue peaked at $1.415 billion in fiscal 2008 and slipped for two straight years before rebounding with a slight upward move in fiscal 2011.
Wes Ehrecke of the Iowa Gaming Association, an umbrella group for the state-licensed tracks and casinos, said a milder winter and improving economic conditions were factors along with the addition of the newest riverboat in northwest Iowa were factors in the fiscal 2012 uptick.
“There’s maybe still some uncertainty, but I think there’s more consumer confidence than there was back in 2008 and 2009,” Ehrecke said. “Because of the economic downturn, I think people maybe don’t have the budgets to travel as far, but still want some entertainment. I think Iowa has done very well in providing some premiere entertainment destinations along with great customer service. I think that keep things fairly stable with some uptick in growth here.”
The Larchwood casino, which opened late in the previous fiscal year, reported gross adjusted receipts of nearly $57.4 million and contributed a major share of the $86.8 million jump in the overall total compared to fiscal 2011, Ohorilko said. Without that boost, Iowa’s gambling industry would have had a generally flat or slightly higher revenue year in fiscal 2012.
Overall, 11 of the 15 Iowa riverboats posted year-over-year revenue increases, while four operations saw their gross adjusted revenues decline from last fiscal year. Racetrack-casinos in Altoona and Council Bluffs posted higher revenue this past year, while the Dubuque facility saw a decline.
Ohorilko said the Iowa casino market seems to be “a little more insulated” from economic downturns that have occurred at destination resorts in Nevada and New Jersey, given that they cater more to weekend stays than vacations for their players.
“I think the numbers more in past years than this year had been hit by the recession,” he said.
Admission were up at both Iowa tracks and riverboats over the previous year – 6,138,273 at the tracks compared to 5,995,776 a year ago and 16,690,125 for the floating casinos compared to 15,713,515 in fiscal 2011. On average, the riverboats’ per-capital “win” was unchanged at $60 while bettors at the state-licensed track lost $75 on average, which was up $2 from the per-capita win in fiscal 2011, according to the latest commission data.
“I believe that whole idea of a ‘stay-cation’ — staying closer to home but still having some great entertainment opportunities — I’d really like to think the casinos in Iowa do provide a premiere entertainment destination, a lot of variety of options beyond just gaming, like concerts, hotels and other things,” Ehrecke said.
“The commercial gaming industry in Iowa is a very viable part of Iowa’s economy and certainly is adding tremendous value to the state’s entertainment and tourism industry,” he added, noting that the facilities account for more than 10,000 jobs, contribute millions of dollars in their host communities through the non-profit license holders, and purchase items from Iowa vendors that have an overall economic impact of $1 billion annually to the state.
Adjusted gross revenues for state-licensed casinos in Iowa
Wild Rose Casino/Emmetsburg
Isle Casino & Hotel/Waterloo
Isle of Capri/Bettendorf
Ameristar II/Council Bluffs
Harrah’s Casino/Council Bluffs
Diamond Jo/Worth County
Riverside Casino & Golf Resort
Prairie Meadows Racetrack/Casino
Horseshoe Casino & Bluffs Run Greyhound Park
Source: Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission
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