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Iowa casinos, sports books taking legal bets

Posted at 6:52 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 19:52:08-04

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) — It was an exciting day at the Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs as bettors were legally able to place bets on sporting events Thursday.

Iowa became the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize sports gambling this past spring and Thursday marked the first day bets were allowed to be taken by sports books. Nearly 250 people came to the casino at 4 p.m. to watch former Iowa Hawkeye and NFL star Tim Dwight place the first legal sports bet in Council Bluffs. He bet $100 on the Chicago Bears winning the Super Bowl at 20/1 odds.

"In terms of something that's new and exciting this has been the big one in the last 20 years," said Paul Czak, the Vice President and General Manger at Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs. The casino spent the past few months turning their sports bar in to a sports book. Patrons can now dine, drink and place bets in the same location.

"When it became possible that it became legal across the country, we thought it would be a matter of time before it became legal to Iowans," Czak said.

Screens inside the sports book show odds for sports such as pre-season NFL football and MLB games. Bettors can place futures wagers on the College Football Playoff National Title and the Super Bowl winner.

"It's the standard stuff, money-line, point-spread, over-under," Czak said.

While betting terms may be new to some guests, the rise of fantasy sports has helped make betting terms mainstream.

"The rise of fantasy football has really turned people on to point spreads, money lines and over-unders," Czak said. "They're really more educated than they were five or ten years ago."

Sports gambling has been controversial in the past. People against sports gambling say it leads to higher rates of addiction and gambling at casinos while supporters of gambling say it gets the money out of the bookie's hands and in to legal sports gaming authorities.

"It's a safer bet to come in to a regulated, state-controlled legal alternative. I think that's one of the reasons that a lot of the states are legalizing that," Czak said. He also said the casino monitors who has been kicked out of casinos in the past and people who are showing signs of gambling addiction. The casino has pamphlets inside the sports book detailing the dangers of gambling.

Moving forward the casino is adding mobile-gambling and in-game betting. The goal is to make the experience enjoyable for the patrons coming to the sports book.

"It will give you something to do during the game, keep folks engaged, it will be a way to draw fans out to watch a game that would normally do it at home, it's going to be busy, a good one though," Czak said.

Ameristar won't be the only sports book in Council Bluffs. Harrah's and Horshoe casinos both open up next Thursday. Betting locations are also available in Des Moines, Davenport, Bettendorf, Osceola, Waterloo, Altoona and Burlington.