From a peak of over a dozen riverboat casinos in Iowa, one of the last three floating gambling houses will be moving to land soon, leaving only two riverboat casinos in the state.
Iowa Racing and Gaming Administrator Brian Ohorilko told local media outlets that plans were approved Thursday for Marquette’s Casino Queen to become a land-based operation.
Pari-mutuel dog track and horse racing were authorized in 1983, and the state lottery was created two years later. Riverboat gambling was approved by lawmakers in 1989. Racetracks began to offer slots in 1994, and the casino operations started moving from water to land.
In April 1991 Dubuque’s Casino Belle became the first riverboat casino in America and there were eventually as many as 69 floating casinos on rivers feeding the Atlantic Ocean. By 2004, riverboats were allowed to operate on moored barges rather than in open water. That development led to operators opening hotels and retail spaces adjacent to the casinos. Iowa became the eighth state in which BetMGM began to offer legal online sports wagering in May 2019.
Significant New Investment
Speaking about the Casino Queen, IRGA’s Ohorilko said, “They’re proposing to invest 12 million dollars into a land-based facility that would connect with their current barge area. They would add a sportsbook and a new restaurant.
“With casino Queen moving gaming to [a] land-based area that will leave just Lakeside and Ameristar Casino (Council Bluffs) as the two remaining gaming licenses that still have casino gambling on a boat,” said the administrator.
With the new casino connecting to the current barge area, it is possible that Casino Queen could keep its current address of 100 Anti-Monopoly Street in Marquette.
With the slow but mass exodus of riverboat casinos to land, including casinos in Sioux City and Davenport, Ohorilko says no improvement in gaming revenue or footfall in the gambling venues has been seen yet. “The reasons for that are very simple — in that typically on a land base facility –, there is more space to offer, not only additional gaming but most importantly, additional non-gaming amenities,” for people to spend their entertainment funds on, Ohorilko says.
More Recent Gaming Commission Approvals
Recent regulatory approvals by the Racing and Gaming Commission include a $31 million remodel for Harvey’s in Council Bluffs that will include several upgrades. “A new Celebrity Chef Restaurant, a Guy Fieri’s restaurant, renovation of all of their hotel rooms, some additional space for gaming, just to allow for a more comfortable experience for those guests,” he says.
Q Casino in Dubuque was given approval for the first phase of a multi-million dollar renovation plan. Ohorilko says the revamp is needed in order to properly compete with nearby gaming operations in other states.
“Nebraska has gaming, we’re starting to see some construction there, particularly in the Omaha market. And so, it’s really important for those Iowa facilities to put their best foot forward,” Ohorilko says.
Source: Marquette casino moving to land, leaving only 2 casino boats in Iowa, Radio Iowa, January 27, 2023