An Iowa casino is making plans for sports betting in advance of possible legalization this year.
On Wednesday, Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino announced a new partnership with industry giant William Hill. Opened in 1989, the Altoona horse racing facility boasts more than 1,700 slot machines and gaming tables within its 85,000 square feet of casino space.
News of the partnership first emerged from the Twitter account of a local news reporter.
BREAKING: @PrairieMeadows and @WilliamHill announce sports betting partnership pending legislative passage. Would operate 8,600+ square foot sports book. #ialegis pic.twitter.com/up6Pze9RBo
— Mario Rossi (@mariovrossi) January 16, 2019
Sports betting remains illegal under Iowa law after a push for legalization fell short in 2018.
Prairie Meadows + William Hill
As it has done in several other US states, William Hill is charging headfirst into a virgin market. Here’s CEO Joe Asher on his company’s newest deal:
“We are excited about the prospect of sports betting in Iowa and are thrilled to partner with Prairie Meadows to be ready for the day when sports betting is legal in the state. We are building a first-class sportsbook that will make Prairie Meadows the place to bet and watch the games.”
The two parties even have the blueprints in place, at least conceptually. The on-property sportsbook will occupy 8,600 square feet of the Level 4 concourse, near the racing center. According to the press release, it will feature “state-of-the-art video wall technology.”
The idea is to roll sportsbook construction into a larger renovation project that is already underway.
While the partnership is somewhat premature, it comes as no surprise. Within a day of the US Supreme Court decision in May 2018, Prairie Meadows CEO Gary Palmer publicly expressed an appetite to bring sports betting to his property.
Jockeying into position for sports betting
Add Iowa to the list of states in which partnerships are coming together despite the absence of sports betting authorization.
Something similar has materialized in New York, though there is a partial law in place there. Over the past eight months, each of the four commercial casinos has partnered with a top-tier supplier. DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook are among those with a clear path into the NY sports betting market pending regulation.
Tribal gaming groups are filing into position, too. The Oneida Nation has an NY deal-in-waiting with Caesars, while MGM/GVC have teamed up with the United Auburn Indian Community of California.
Legal sports betting looks to be a long shot for California in the immediate future, but prospects seem a little better in Iowa.
Although last year’s sports betting bill only had time to clear one subcommittee before the session expired, the sponsor left the statehouse feeling optimistic. According to Rep. Jake Highfill, the legislature will be “all in” on sports betting in 2019.
If and when his bill reappears in the current session, it will have new support from the Iowa Lottery, too. Any law that passes will likely limit implementation to in-person, retail wagering.