Fifteen months after the Supreme Court struck down a ban on sports betting outside of Nevada, legal sportsbooks are about to open on Omaha’s doorstep.
Ameristar Casino Hotel in Council Bluffs will kick off sports betting at 4 p.m. Thursday in its newly renovated Amerisports Bar & Grill. Tim Dwight, a two-time All-America selection for the Iowa Hawkeyes and 10-year NFL veteran, is slated to place the first bet, said Christie Scott, an Ameristar spokeswoman.
A full house of more than 500 people is expected for the grand opening, said Paul Czak, the casino’s general manager. Two hundred “VIP” guests have already reserved seats.
“We’re opening at a really good time,” Czak said. “People are talking about it in my neighborhood. We haven’t had any trouble pushing the word out.”
Seven other Iowa casinos also will open sports betting parlors Thursday, according to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission:
- Prairie Meadows, Altoona
- Lakeside, Osceola
- Isle Waterloo
- Isle Bettendorf
- Rhythm City, Davenport
- Catfish Bend, Burlington
Most of the rest of the 19 state-regulated casinos are expected to open sports betting before the NFL starts its regular season Sept. 5.
Harrah’s and Horseshoe casinos in Council Bluffs said their sportsbooks will open Aug. 23, with a celebrity ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Horseshoe Whiskey Roadhouse. Heisman Trophy-winning Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch and WBO welterweight boxing champion Terence “Bud” Crawford both are scheduled to appear.
The Iowa Legislature passed a sports-gambling measure last spring, making it one of 11 states to implement legal sportsbooks to date. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission set Aug. 15 as the first date for legal betting. Legislators in Nebraska took no action this year to enact sports betting in the state.
The Iowa law permits legal betting on professional, college and international sporting events. It also legalizes fantasy sports contests and Internet fantasy sports betting. The new law excludes some forms of sports betting, such as bets based on performances of individual players for in-state college teams.
Residents of Nebraska and other states will be able to place sports wagers at Iowa casinos using a mobile app, but they will have to travel to the casino to set up an account in person. And because the app is geofenced within Iowa’s borders, out-of-state bettors will have to cross into Iowa each time they want to place a bet.
Ameristar, though, won’t be offering mobile betting until mid-2020, Czak said. He said Ameristar’s parent company, Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns 41 casinos nationwide, has decided to develop its own app for use at sportsbooks in other states that legalize sports betting, too.