William Hill eyes Iowa launch with Prairie Meadows deal

17 January 2019

William Hill has entered into a new partnership with Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Iowa in anticipation of the state passing laws to legalise sports betting.

The bookmaker will serve as the casino’s official sportsbook operator, subject to the passage of regulations in the state.

William Hill will operate an 8,600 square foot sportsbook within the casino, near its existing racing centre. The facility will feature video wall technology for viewing sporting events and live betting odds, in addition to a new bar area.

However, work on the sportsbook will not begin until Iowa moves to regulate sports betting, with both William Hill and Prairie Meadows hopeful that legislation will pass in 2019.

“We are excited about the prospect of sports betting in Iowa and are thrilled to partner with Prairie Meadows to be ready for the day when sports betting is legal in the state,” William Hill US CEO Joe Asher said.

Brad Rhines, senior vice-president and chief strategic officer at Prairie Meadows, added: “Once the legislative process is complete, this innovative partnership will provide many fun and unique sports betting options for our guests.”

Last year, Republican Jake Highfill introduced a bill to legalise sports betting at casinos and racetracks in the state, pending a ruling by the US Supreme Court on PASPA. This ruling eventually came in mid-May, with the Supreme Court opting to repeal PASPA and allow states across the US to begin legalising sports betting.

However, Iowa’s legislature had already adjourned without passing Bill HF2448 and the state was forced to wait until the next session. This year’s session began on January 14 and bills can be submitted to the Legislative Services Agency from February 15.

HF2448 would have allowed betting on both professional and collegiate sports in person and via electronic platforms, with casino sports betting licences priced at $25,000 (£19,400/€22,000), plus a $15,000 renewal fee each year. Licensees would also face a tax of 22% on gross annual sports betting revenue.

William Hill had already positioned itself for expansion into Iowa and a number of other states when it struck a wide-ranging partnership with Eldorado Resorts in September last year.

The bookmaker agreed to serve as the Eldorado’s exclusive partner in the provision of digital and land-based sports betting services as well as online gaming. At the time, the two companies named Iowa as one of several markets covered by the market access agreement.

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