ALTOONA — Legalizing sports betting is one issue the Iowa Legislature is expected to take up in this new session, and the state-licensed casinos are preparing to get into the action when they do.
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission recently approved an agreement requested by Prairie Meadows in Altoona to create an area for a sports book at the facility. “The plan if for William Hill to operate a sports book on that site if sports wagering is authorized this legislative year,” according to Racing and Gaming administrator Brian Ohorilko.
The agreement provides an eight-year lease for 8,600 square feet of space, and William Hill will also help fund its construction. He says it’s unknown if sports betting will be approved by lawmakers — but the timing is right for Prairie Meadows to create the sports book space during their remodeling.
“It made sense to put that into the plans while they are starting their remodel,” Ohorilko says. “So that was why — at least our understanding — why this agreement came to be at this time of year,” Ohorilko explains. Ohorilko says all the casinos have been paying close attention to the issue — but there’s been no work done to prepare sports betting areas.
“Many of them seem to have an idea or a plan for where they may put a sports book or have their sports gambling operations, ” he says. “Each facility looks a little different in Iowa, and so I’m sure every plan will be a little bit different.”
He says Prairie Meadows appears to be the casino that has done the most to prepare at this point. “I think most of the facilities are just keeping an eye be allowed for them to do,” Ohorilko says.
The Iowa Gaming Association has been pushing to get lawmakers to legalize sports betting after a U.S. Supreme Court ruled it should not be limited to the state of Nevada.