About Us » Iowa Gaming History

Commercial gaming in Iowa has thrived since the first riverboat opened for business in 1991. The following history details referendums and other major milestones in Iowa's gaming landscape since the Pari-mutuel Wagering Act was signed into law in 1983. 

1983 The Pari-mutuel Wagering Act was signed to allow wagering on horse and dog racing in the state of Iowa.
1989 Bills were signed to expand pari-mutuel wagering, including simulcast races, and to allow for casino wagering on riverboats in counties where voters approve riverboat gaming referendums.

Riverboat gaming referendums were approved by voters in eight Iowa counties. 
1991 The first riverboat casinos opened for business:
Wild Rose Clinton (Clinton County)
1992 Voters in two additional counties approved riverboat referendums.
1994 Two casino sites opened:
Catfish Bend Casino (Des Moines County)
Diamond Jo Casino (Dubuque County)
1995 A referendum vote was held and approved.
Four casino sites opened:
Horseshoe Casino (Pottawattamie County)
Isle of Capri Bettendorf (Scott County)
Mystique Casino (Dubuque County)
Prairie Meadows (Polk County). 
1996 Two casino sites opened:
Ameristar Casino (Pottawattamie County)
Harrah's Council Bluffs (Pottawattamie County)
1997 A referendum vote was held and approved.
2000 Three casino sites opened:
Lady Luck Casino Marquette (Clayton County)
Lakeside Hotel Casino (Clarke County)
Rhythm City Casino (Scott County)
2002 Voters in 11 counties approved referendums to continue casino gaming at racetracks and riverboat casinos. These referendums passed by an average of 74 percent, which confirmed overwhelming recognition of the significant positive impact gaming properties have on communities and the state's entertainment and tourism industry.
2003 Voters in eight counties without gaming facilities held referendums on whether to allow casinos. Four counties approved the referendums; four counties failed.
2004 Voters in seven counties without gaming facilities held referendums on whether to allow casinos. Three counties approved the referendums; four counties failed.
2005 The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted to allow four additional licenses.
2006 Two counties without gaming facilities held referendum votes; one passed and one failed.

Three casino sites opened:
Diamond Jo Worth (Worth County)
Riverside Casino & Golf Resort (Washington County)
Wild Rose Emmetsburg (Palo Alto County)
2007 One Iowa county defeats bid for casino.

One casino site opened:
Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo (Black Hawk County)
2008 Two counties without gaming facilities held referendum votes; one passed and one was defeated.
2009 The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission conducted a thorough study of the state’s gaming environment to determine if there were any underserved areas. The IRGC determined to issue one new license, which went to Lyon County.
2010 Voters in 14 counties (home to 16 casinos) overwhelmingly approved the continued operation of casinos in their communities by an average of 78.5 percent.

Four counties without gaming facilities held referendum votes on whether to allow casinos. Three counties approved the referendums; one county failed.
2011 One casino site opened:
Grand Falls Casino Resort (Lyon County).
2013 Three counties without gaming facilities held referendum votes. Two passed; one failed.
2014 One casino site opened:
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (Woodbury County)
2015 One casino site opened:
Wild Rose Jefferson (Greene County)

$22.6 BILLION:

Amount of money generated by gaming tax revenue since 1991.

In 2016, gaming in Iowa had its 25th birthday. Since the inception of commercial gaming in our state, casinos have generated billions of dollars in tax revenue that has been used to fund important programs such as the Environment First Fund, RIIF, Iowa Skilled Workers, Vision Iowa and County Endowment Grants. See how taxes are spent here.