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Illinois competition takes a bite out of Iowa casino revenue

Reels are spinning, and the house is winning in Rock Island these days.

That’s where City Limits reaps benefits from expanded Illinois gaming. The bar and grill’s four machines bring in about $1,000 each week for the business.

“These machines are taking in a lot of money away from the casinos,” said owner Bob Anderson. “I’m sure of that.”

One reason why Iowa gaming revenue declined for the second straight year.

Revenue from Iowa’s riverboat casinos dropped more than $32 million.  All Quad Cities-based Iowa casinos also took a hit.

That competition comes as Rhythm City and Isle of Capri plan extensive land-based casinos in the Iowa Quad Cities. In Fiscal 2014, each floating casino brought in about $4 million fewer dollars than 2013.

“I think we, as a country, are still very concerned about the economy,” said Mary Ellen Chamberlin, president of Riverboat Development Authority. “I think people are still a little bit leery about using their discretionary income.”

While that downward trend reflects the economy and entertainment spending, it’s also influenced by competition from nearby Illinois.

“Illinois is generating a lot of money,” said Anderson.

Some of that money is coming from newer and smaller gaming venues in bars. It’s a lot different from a resort-type setting.

History shows that additional features planned for Davenport and Bettendorf will bank more dollars for Iowa. There are no red flags in the Hawkeye state just yet.

“We think that we’re still a very strong and stable industry,” said Wes Ehrecke, Iowa Gaming Association. “The additional amenities and type of facility will attract more people. It’s a win-win.”

Iowa casinos will work to bounce back from a brutal winter that sliced into attendance. Illinois businesses like City Limits will just keep spinning the reels for local customers.

“There’s just many more options, and more places to play,” Anderson concluded.

A gaming pot that will likely allow Illinois and Iowa a decent jackpot for years to come.

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