DES MOINES — Overall revenue for Iowa’s 19 state-licensed casinos grew modestly in fiscal 2017, but the increase was driven mostly by upgraded facilities in the Quad-Cities, while 12 others posted year-over-year declines, according to data issued Monday by the state Racing and Gaming Commission.
In total, casinos licensed by the commission took in nearly $1.45 billion for the 12 months that ended June 30 — a roughly 1 percent increase of more than $15.7 million over the previous year, but still below the record of nearly $1.47 billion in adjusted gross revenue in fiscal 2012.
“We’re a 26-year-old industry that’s a very stable and strong and mature industry,” said Wes Ehrecke of the Iowa Gaming Association, an umbrella group for the state-licensed casinos.
“I believe that’s a very positive sign of what our industry is in providing a premiere entertainment destination,” he said of the fiscal 2017 revenue numbers. “There’s a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar.”
State commission administrator Brian Ohorilko said seven casinos posted higher revenue numbers in fiscal 2017, with Rhythm City in Davenport and Isle of Capri in Bettendorf leading the way after moving from riverboats to land-based facilities with total investments topping $170 million. Revenue and admissions spiked with the expansion of facilities and amenities at the new venues, he said.
“You would assume that a lot of that is out-of-state revenue,” he said.
Ohorilko said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the latest numbers. While 12 properties saw revenues decline, he noted it follows a year in which overall receipts rose about $21.6 million — perhaps “a natural bounce back from some of those highs.”
Ohorilko said there is no significant investment planned at the existing casinos, although Riverside Casino & Golf Resort recently announced a $10 million upgrade.
The commission will begin the process later this week of hearing presentations from two entities with three projects that have applied for licenses to operate casinos in Cedar Rapids.
Commissioners plan to hold site visits and receive comments from the public and the applicants during a Sept. 26 meeting in Cedar Rapids, after which they will receive the results of a gaming study in October and are slated to decide on future license applications at a Nov. 16 meeting.
In 2014, the commission denied a license for a Cedar Rapids casino. It cited, among other things, worries that a new casino would “cannibalize” revenues at other facilities, most notably at Riverside.
The latest figures show Riverside’s revenue was almost flat with last year, increasing by about $475,000.
The largest declines were at casinos in Clinton, Burlington and Sioux City.
“Overall, it was a good year,” Ohorilko said. “I think it signifies that the Iowa gaming market is a very stable market. It’s been common for other states and other jurisdictions have seen significant fluctuations. Typically the market in Iowa is more predictable and stable year over year.”
Launched as riverboat gambling in 1989, Iowa’s casino industry now is down to only three entities — Ameristar in Council Bluffs, Lakeside in Osceola and Casino Queen in Marquette — that have not converted to land-based casinos.