Iowa AG Reminds Track of Account-Bet Prohibition

by Dan Johnson
Prairie Meadows cannot receive payments from services that take Internet or telephone wagers from Iowa residents, according to an Iowa attorney general's opinion.

Iowa law prohibits residents from betting by phone or the Internet, so taking revenue from such bets could be seen as promoting illegal gambling, the opinion said. The track received a $10,000 payment from AmericaTab, an Ohio-based account wagering service with a hub in Oregon, but will have to return it.

"Would that be taking fruit from a forbidden tree? The thought is that it would be," said Jack Ketterer, administrator for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

Prairie Meadows general manager Bob Farinella the track occasionally receives checks from account wagering sites, but sends them back. He said Prairie Meadows, like other racetracks, is obviously losing handle to those sites but doesn't know how much.

"There is no way to quantify the bets made in Iowa," Farinella said. "We know that there are millions of dollars in wagers that are no longer being made here. We know that from some of the conversations we've had with customers."

Prairie Meadows has received the go-ahead from the racing and gaming commission to proceed with its two-year, $60-million expansion project that will add 32 table games and 500 slot machines to its casino, plus a buffet, a steakhouse, and a concert room. The project also includes building a new jockeys' quarters and paddock, and adding a pair of steeples to the track's red roof.

Prairie Meadows opened 33 table games Dec. 14 and took in $816,218 in revenue through the end of the month.

For all of 2004, Prairie Meadows finished with $39,159,000 in net income. It had $167,139,000 in revenue and $127,980,000 in expenses. It took in $5,458,000 in pari-mutuel revenue and $160,850,000 in casino revenue.

Prairie Meadows is not-for-profit, so all of its earnings get distributed to Polk County, the city of Des Moines, horse purses and charity.