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Catfish Bend Casino Preparing to Offer Sports Gambling Pending Governor Approval

Apr 24, 2019

Legislation to legalize gambling on college and professional sports teams as well as fantasy sports is sitting on the desk of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds after passing the House and Senate. A southeast Iowa casino is already taking steps to ensure it is ready if the Governor signs the bill into law.

Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington announced this week that it plans to build a sportsbook on its property, where customers can place wagers in person. It will include a sports bar, multiple television screens, and an electronic display for wagering odds.

Catfish Bend Casino CEO Gary Hoyer said the casino started seriously looking into sports gambling about a year-and-a-half ago.

“As the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the New Jersey case went on the books and the industry started looking at opportunities to regulate sports betting, tax it, and make it legitimate,” said Hoyer.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May 2018 that a law approved by Congress in the early 1990’s that banned states, other than Nevada, from legalizing sports gambling was unconstitutional. The ruling opened the door for New Jersey and other states to move quickly to establish legal sports gambling options.

Catfish Bend General Manager Rob Higgins said the casino has studied how sports gambling is being handled in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Biloxi, Mississippi to determine how it can work in Iowa. He said the research showed the need to hire an outside firm to manage the sportsbook. As a result, Catfish Bend this week announced a partnership with PointsBet. Pointsbet will manage the sportsbook that will be built in Burlington and will provide a mobile app for online wagering.

“We thought that was the best avenue for us,” said Higgins. “Bring in somebody who has that experience who can operate the sportsbook facility. We could have done it on our own, but because of the expertise PointsBet brought in, we thought it was a better idea to put it in their hands and let them run it.”

Hoyer said construction of the sportsbook has yet to get underway.

“We did not want to get ahead of ourselves,” said Hoyer as the legislation has yet to be signed by the Governor. “We will be ready when the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission adopts its rules [pending the Governor’s signature], finishes its rule-making, and sets up the standards for licensing and taking bets.”

Hoyer said Catfish Bend would have to obtain a separate sports gambling license from the state.

“I really think that sports betting appeals perhaps to a little younger demographic,” said Hoyer. “But young and old, people get excited about sports and want to place a wager on them.”

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