An Inside Look At One Of The First Iowa Sportsbooks

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BURLINGTON, IOWA — Iowa sportsbooks start popping up across the state last week. Among them: The PointsBet Sportsbook has opened at the Catfish Bend Casino.

Going live in time for the University of Iowa’s football season was a win for both companies, as nothing is more important to sports fans in the southeast corner of Iowa than Iowa football.

PointsBet Sportsbook did a “soft launch” on Thursday, when the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission gave the green light to casinos to launch their mobile and physical sportsbooks.

The sportsbook will not actually begin accepting wagers until Monday, though patrons are now free to visit the lounge during hours of operation and register for mobile betting.

Here’s a look at the sportsbook, which is probably the best-looking space in the early goings in Iowa wagering:

PointsBet hopes to pull patrons from miles around

Burlington is located right on the Mississippi River and about 40 miles from the Des Moines River. That gives the PointsBet Sportsbook a great chance to offer wagering to residents of other states, with Illinois on the other side of the Mississippi and Missouri on the opposite bank of the Des Moines.

Though Illinois has legalized sports betting, licenses have not yet been issued and a launch date has not yet been announced.

The state government in Missouri has failed to take much action on legalizing sports betting despite the fact that half of its neighbors have moved to legalize and the state does offer casino gaming.

Its proximity states that don’t yet offer legal sports betting creates the potential to pull patrons from miles around. The aesthetic and design of the space are designed to help with that as well.

Details on the PointsBet Sportsbook at Catfish Bend Casino

Initial hours for the space, which is made to accommodate approximately 270 guests at full capacity, are 9 a.m. to 1 a.m daily. There are slots and table games accessible within the area in addition to betting on sports..

Now that the sportsbook is fully live, there are three kiosks and three betting windows available. Catfish Bend Casino GM Rob Higgins told PlayUSA that a fourth betting window that’s usually reserved for supervisor activities is available for busier times.

The sports bar setting offers high top tables, a full bar, a lounge area and 25 high-definition television monitors. It also boasts of the largest television in the state, a 13’x9’ monitor that can either be parceled out to show multiple broadcasts or become a solid screen displaying the same content.

“The design was a collaboration between Catfish, Randy Winegard and PointsBet. It was a joint venture. You’d be amazed that we did all the renovations to this space within about three months,” Higgins explained.

Although no food will be served inside the sportsbook, it’s adjacent to the Boogaloo Cafe within the casino complex. Catfish Bend is planning a grand opening and ribbon-cutting on Aug. 23 and 24.

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Getting live for Iowa sports betting

Higgins says the application and licensing process for the sportsbook was just as successful as the renovations to the former restaurant space.

“It was really smooth,” Higgins stated. “IRGC has been very cooperative and it’s new to them too. We’re walking through it hand-in-hand very amicably. There’s no pushback. When we ask, how should we do this, we just kind of sit down and figure it out. They’ve been very good.”

As college sports are very popular in southeast Iowa, that’s what the focus of the sportsbook marketing will revolve around.

Betting on college sports, Iowa football

The nearest professional teams to Burlington are in St. Louis over 200 miles away, so the PointsBet Sportsbook is focused on accommodating college sports betting. The book will offer moneyline, outright and parlay bets on individual contests and team futures.

In-game prop bets on college sports remain illegal in Iowa, however.

The fact that in-game collegiate action can’t be wagered upon hasn’t altered plans. Located just 78 miles from Iowa City, where the University of Iowa is, PointsBet expects most of its initial action to be on Big 10 and Hawkeye football.

“We’re going to make sure we have bets like winning the Big 10 conference available,” Higgins explained. “When Iowa games are on, we’re going to have them on the biggest television in Iowa. We’ll have the Hawkeyes on there. This is Hawkeye territory and there would be quite an outcry if the Hawkeyes aren’t on there.”

The annual Iowa-Iowa State game is Sept. 14 and that will be an opportunity for Catfish Bend to get a better idea of the demand for sports betting in the area. Higgins said that Catfish Bend hasn’t done any market research on that.

Derek Helling

About

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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