Sports betting may not yet be legal in Iowa but should state lawmakers make it permissible, steps are already being taken where a sports book will open almost immediately once legislation is passed.
In a recently announced partnership, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino has entered into an agreement with William Hill U.S. that will have William Hill operate a sports book at Prairie Meadows, located in Altoona, Iowa.
Of the 19 commercial casinos within Iowa, Prairie Meadows is the first to formally announce plans to operate a sportsbook or any kind of partnership related to sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports gambling last spring.
Pending Iowa lawmakers passing legislation to allow sports betting and pending regulatory approvals, William Hill will open and operate a more than 8,600-square foot sports book at Prairie Meadows that will include state-of-the-art video wall technology for viewing live sporting events and with live betting odds and data.
The facility will be near Prairie Meadows’s racing center and scheduled to open in mid-February. It could be operational immediately upon Iowa legalizing sports betting.
“Once the legislative process is complete, this innovative partnership will provide many fun and unique sports betting options for our guests,” said Brad Rhines, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategic Officer of Prairie Meadows, in a statement.
Eight states now allow sports betting following the Supreme Court’s decision last May. No bill is presently before the present Iowa General Assembly to legalize sports betting.
Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, the chair of the House State Government Committee, said he intends to hold a subcommittee meeting on the topic by the end of January, according to the Des Moines Register.
Any proposed bill would need the approval of the House State Government Committee is the committee before advancing to the Iowa House.
"I’m not going to say it’s unanimous, but I’ve had a lot of (legislators) come to me favorable and not nearly as many coming to me unfavorable," the Republican representative said.
The issue is seemingly not split among party lines, with several Iowa Democratic lawmakers speaking publicly in support of legalized sports betting within the state -- provided proper mechanisms are put in place to protect all involved.
"Here’s how I kind of look at it: If it’s coming and it’s here and we have gaming in the state of Iowa, it’s better to get ahead of it and control some of the provisions of it and where the money is going to go and how the state of Iowa can benefit from it," said Democratic Sen. Liz Mathis, according to the Des Moines Register.
William Hill’s agreement with Prairie Meadows is the latest expansion by the United Kingdom-based company into U.S. sports betting marketplace.
William Hill is the largest sports book operator in the U.S, including 109 race and sports books in Nevada, and entered last year into a partnership with Nevada-based Eldorado Resorts, which operates facilities in several states.
“We are building a first-class sports book that will make Prairie Meadows the best place to bet and watch the games,” William Hill CEO Joe Asher said in a statement.