CEO: Prairie Meadows on track for record revenue as visitors gamble pandemic aid

By: - July 30, 2021 11:14 am

Prairie Meadows is expecting to set a revenue record this year as visitors gamble pandemic relief money. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino is likely to set a revenue record this year, in part because visitors are gambling their pandemic relief money, a top official said. 

“Revenue is really good this year. I predict we’ll have our biggest year,” Gary Palmer, president and CEO, said in an interview.

Prairie Meadows was closed for three months due to the pandemic, but has been rebuilding business and addressing pent-up demand — with a wild card.

“It’s demand and the money that the government’s given everybody that has made a big difference,” Palmer said. “We don’t think we could duplicate that next year because of all the incentive money that was given out to everybody” during the early months of the pandemic, he added.

“We don’t think we’ll ever do in the first six months again what we did in the first six months of this year,” Palmer said.

Planning for next year has been challenging, Palmer said. “It’s going to be a trick because we don’t really know where COVID is going yet. ”That could be a factor for us.”

I predict we'll have our biggest year

– Gary Palmer, Prairie Meadows president and CEO

The spread of the delta variant led federal health officials to recommend this week that everyone in a school, and anyone at a public indoor area in a high-risk location, wear a mask. Prairie Meadows announced Friday it will require guests and staff to wear masks beginning Sunday due to rising levels of  COVID-19.

Based on projects reviewed in a two-hour staff meeting earlier this week, Prairie Meadows is in line to take in $215 million in adjusted gross gambling revenue, a record.

Next year, when the federal pandemic aid is gone, the facility probably will be lucky to take in a bit more than $209 million next year, based on recent projections, Palmer said. The casino and racetrack took in $208 million in 2019, the year before the pandemic. 

“Our food and beverage (sales) will be down a little bit, and hotel’s down, and our convention (business is down) but our gaming is up,” Palmer said.

Prairie Meadows nets about $40 million a year.

Lottery sets records

The Iowa Lottery set records for sales, proceeds to state causes, prizes to players, and commissions paid to Iowa retailers n fiscal year 2021.

Preliminary figures released Wednesday show a record $101.7 million in payments to the state government for the year ending June 30. Sales were $452.6 million,  prizes $288.9 million, and commissions $29.7 million.

Lottery officials said a spike in scratch ticket sales during the pandemic and two large lotto jackpots helped.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.