NORTHWOOD — Iowa regulators say they are on track to finalize rules that would allow state-licensed casinos to accept bets on most professional and college sports by early to mid-August.
Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission staff have been working "thoroughly and swifty" to develop rules for the new form of betting, with a goal of posting the rules on its website by July 1, administrator Brian Ohorilko said.
Ohorilko said five-member commission likely will hold a public hearing on the rules at its July 11 meeting at Prairie Meadows in Altoona.
At a special July 30 meeting in West Des Moines, the commission would likely take action on sports betting, including accepting applications from casinos, Ohorilko said.
"The industry is requesting a pretty aggressive timetable to have things implemented by August," he told the commission at its meeting Thursday at Diamond Job Worth Casino near Northwood. "We're doing everything we can to do that, but making sure that we're doing it the right way."
Three casinos – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City, Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort near Larchwood and Lakeside Casino near Osceola – received the go-ahead Thursday from state regulators for remodeling projects to create spaces for visitors to wager on professional and college sports.
The casinos are the first in the state to move forward with bookmaking in the wake of Gov. Kim Reynolds signing a bill last month that legalized wagers on most professional and college sports.
The remodeling projects were approved on a conditional basis. The casino operators must qualify for a license and the vendors they select to conduct the sports wagering also must pass extensive background checks, Ohorilko said.
The IRGC also approved Elite Casino Resorts LLC's request to use Betworks LLC as a provider of sportsbook services for Elite's three Iowa casinos, which include Grand Falls, Riverside Casino & Golf Resort near Iowa City and Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport. The commission also voted to accept Bally Gaming to run the sportsbook being set up at Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs.
Hard Rock and Grand Falls officials have pledged to have their sportsbooks up and running as soon as the IRGC gives final approval. It should occur just as the NFL and college football seasons kick off this fall.
Work is set to begin Monday on the Hard Rock project that will convert 400 square feet of existing casino space into a sportsbook. Grand Falls also plans to start soon on remodeling that will free up existing space for its new sports betting area.
Grand Falls' sportsbook, which will take over space space currently used by weekend musical acts, will feature tables and booths for wagerers to watch their games on large screen monitors. The sportsbook also will have access to the casino's Center Bar and the adjacent Ruthie’s Kitchen will serve food, general manager Sharon Hasselhoff told the IRGC.
The Hard Rock will free up space for its sportsbook by remodeling 400 square feet of the casino’s high-stakes betting and wine bar area, which currently covers 8,000 square feet. The construction, led by Sioux City-based W.A. Klinger, will cost about $150,000, while the overall project, which will include new technology and fixtures, is estimated at nearly $900,000, Hard Rock general manager Jim Franke said.
Franke said the space will allow guests to watch games and betting lines.
"In the wine bar area, there are already some TVs in there, and there will be some more put in to create an environment," Franke said.
The sportsbook area is nearby the entrance to the casino floor from a new parking ramp under construction. The Hard Rock partnered with the city of Sioux City on the $16 million ramp, which is expected to open in late September. The structure at Third and Pearl streets will have 535 parking spaces and 15,000 square feet of retail space.
The sportsbook project at Grand Falls is part of an $10 million expansion that also will include the addition of 63 hotel rooms and an expansion of its RV park, she said.
Hasselhoff said the existing 97-hotel is often booked on weekends. The expansion will open up more rooms on Friday and Saturday nights and also allow the casino staff to better promote group overnight outings on weekdays, she said. A new hotel wing will be connected to the existing wing with a skywalk, she said. The new wing, which will also overlook the hotel pool and golf course, is expected to open by next summer.
Grand Falls, located in rural Lyon County site just across the South Dakota, will move its weekend entertainment to a newly-created space next to its Center Bar on the casino floor. Due to the change, there will no longer be musical groups with drums or other percussion, Hasselhoff said.
Iowa’s law legalizes betting not only on pro and college athletics, but also on daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. The new law does not allow in-game bets — known commonly as proposition, or prop bets — on in-state college teams such as the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones. Such bets usually involve small wagering amounts on things like whether the first free throw of a basketball game is successful or if a player scores a certain number of points.
At state-licensed casinos, including the Hard Rock and Grand Falls, visitors will be able to wager on games at employee-staffed windows or on their own at kiosks. After an initial registration at a casino, they also will be allowed to place bets online such as on their mobile devices.
A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for states other than Nevada to provide bookmaking and betting at casinos and racetracks.