Nebraska Gaming Undermines Iowa’s Council Bluffs Casinos

Nebraska’s launch of legal casino gaming has impacted casinos in the neighboring state of Iowa. As reported by the Omaha World-Herald, two big Council Bluffs casinos have been recording lower revenues – an impact that was also outlined in the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) Q3 revenue report.

Eastern Nebraska launched slot gaming in late 2022, following the legalization of casino-style gambling at horse racing tracks in 2020. This appears to have quickly impacted gambling revenues in Iowa, proving the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association’s claim that much of the money in Council Bluffs’ casinos is spent by Nebraskans.

The aforementioned group represents the interests of Nebraskan horse owners and trainers and was a fervent supporter of the legalization of casino-style gaming in the state.

Iowa Expected the Impact

In the meantime, the impact of gaming in Nebraska was not entirely surprising to Iowa. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission pointed out that locals have expected the Council Bluffs market to go down following the launch of gambling in the neighboring state.

For reference, Iowa’s regulator said that Ameristar, Harrah’s and Horseshoe reported $460 million in revenue in FY 2022-23, down 3% ($13.2 haha777 million) year-on-year. However, the first four months of FT 2024 alone saw the three Council Bluff casinos record a decline of $10.9 million.

For reference, Ameristar recorded a decline of $2.1 million. Horseshoe got the worst of it, with revenue for the period plummeting by $9.2 million year-on-year. Harrah’s was the only property to remain somewhat stable, reporting a modest increase of $400,000 for the first four months of FY 2024.

The Full Extent of the Impact Is Yet to Be Seen

Further revenue decline may await Iowa’s casinos as the property expected to have the profoundest impact on Council Bluffs is not completed yet. This is the WarHorse Omaha property, which would completely refurbish Horsemen’s Park, turning it into a very attractive gaming destination.

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WarHorse Omaha’s casino operations should launch by autumn 2024 and, according to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, will further add to Council Bluff’s woes. The Omaha World-Herald added that an earlier study expects Council Bluffs’ casinos to lose as much as $183.9 million in adjusted gross receipts once Nebraska fully powers its gambling operations.

The World-Herald also spoke with Nebraskan bettors who confirmed that the new casinos are much more convenient to them. In addition, some customers appreciate the fact that their gambling money is not leaving the state.

Despite that, costs, payouts and the overall experience are higher priorities for many bettors. This means that Iowa casinos still have a chance to channel customers toward their properties by offering great gaming experiences.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission concluded that local properties will continue to invest in ramping up the experience to retain their competitive edge.