DES MOINES — Revenues fell slightly at Isle Hotel Casino Waterloo in fiscal year 2018, the third straight year of decline.
Adjusted gross revenue totaled $85.3 million, down from $87 million in FY2017 and $90 million in FY2016.
Admissions also dropped a bit, to 1.014 million in FY2018 from 1.119 million in FY2017 and 1.233 million in FY2016.
The average patron dropped $84 per visit in Waterloo in FY2018, compared with $78 in 2017 and $73 in 2016.
Overall, state-licensed casinos in Iowa saw a slight bump in revenue for FY2018, but attendance lagged due to weather and economic factors, officials said Wednesday.
Iowa’s 19 casinos took in nearly $1.464 billion for the 12 months that ended June 30.
That’s less than a 1 percent increase — $10.9 million — in gross adjusted revenue over the previous fiscal year, below the record of nearly $1.47 billion in fiscal 2012.
“We’re stable, we’re strong and we’re mature,” said Wes Ehrecke of the Iowa Gaming Association, an umbrella group for the state-licensed casinos.
Brian Ohorilko, administrator for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, said he was “encouraged” by the gaming industry’s fiscal 2018 performance, but noted casino operators are concerned about the drop in patrons.
The number of patrons decreased 1.1 million to 20.7 million visitors, compared with the previous year’s 21.8 million.
All but one casino posted a higher per capita losses by patrons per visit, going from $67 per patron the past two fiscal years to $71 per patron in FY2018. That explains why gaming revenue was up even though attendance is down.
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In all, nine casinos posted higher revenue last year while 10 reported declines.
Altoona-based Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino topped $201 million in adjusted gross receipts, a gain of more than $11 million compared with the previous year. Casinos in Davenport, Council Bluffs, Sioux City and Dubuque also posted gains.
There was no construction or major capital improvements that might have skewed the comparisons, Ohorilko said, meaning the fiscal 2018 report “really is a true year-over-year picture and I think demonstrates the continued stability in the Iowa gaming market.”
Ehrecke said unseasonably cold weather in March and April had a negative impact on admissions as Iowans stayed home rather than brave the elements.
“When people don’t go out on those weekends,” he said, “that can have an impact on your overall attendance, and it’s difficult to get that back.”
Perhaps the best prospect Iowa casinos have for attracting new patrons is the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to adopt legal sports wagering, and casinos will push the Legislature to act quickly in 2019, Ehrecke said.
Offering sports wagering via state-regulated casinos would “certainly help” generate more visits, he said.
Ohorilko said the commission is neutral on the sports wagering issue but is preparing should policymakers decide to expand gambling.
Wagering at Iowa’s 19 state-licensed casinos, launched under the 1989 riverboat gambling law, generated more than $292 million in tax revenue this past fiscal year. Cities and counties received $7 million, and nonprofit organizations holding the state gaming licenses received $41 million during the 2017 calendar year, Ohorilko said.
The eight-page fiscal 2018 state casino gambling report can be found at: https://irgc.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2018/07/fytd2018.pdf.