Nicole Fields speaks to Wes Ehrecke, President and CEO of the IOWA Gaming Association
Nicole Fields held an interview with Wes Ehrecke, President and CEO of the IOWA Gaming Association to discuss the future trends, challenges and online gaming within the Gaming industry. Let's take a look at the interview that took place in SiGMA's latest magazine issue (Issue 14).
When and where did you start your career in the gaming industry?
I started as the President and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association in April 2000. The association is now comprised of 19 commercial casinos.
Are there any trends on the horizon set to disrupt the gaming landscape?
For Iowa, it is increased competition from several new proposed casinos authorised across from both borders in Illinois and Nebraska to likely be completed within the next 2 years; plus, the tribal casinos that exist in adjoining states and Iowa.
What do you think are the biggest challenges the gaming industry is facing right now?
Casinos are in different phases of recovering from the complete 11-week shutdown last year March to June; to then establishing and making ongoing modifications of the protocols and guidelines for improving patron confidence and satisfaction with the CDC percentage allowed on the gaming floor; to hopefully soon be getting all the other amenities open, such as the meeting space allowing large gatherings for concerts, conventions, meetings, weddings and more.
The latest will help boost the food and beverage, lodging, spas, golf courses and other offerings that make Iowa casinos a premier entertainment destination.
As more people get vaccinated and are ready to come, a significant challenge is to find the necessary workers to be ready to serve the increased demand, as Iowa has a very low unemployment rate.
Is there room for online gaming in the us betting sector?
The several states who have been early adopters of iGaming are showing that it can successfully be the next addition to the casino amenity list. The key will be to assure it is properly regulated, taxed fairly, and be authorised to provide only through the casinos; as well as not jeopardise any property’s considerable investment in their land-based operation.
The mobile option to place bets from anywhere in the state offered as part of legalising sports wagering in Iowa in 2019; has shown it can be very popular for patrons who love to watch sports and place bets on the event – in several sport books it is over 70% online versus retail.
This online precedence will help; but I believe iGaming will require more education of the elected officials, regulators and even casino management to gain the necessary consensus to proceed to authorise.
The health pandemic shook the land-based casino industry hard, but with many restrictions lifting, there are signs of promising growth. When do you think we can expect to see a return to pre-covid figures?
I believe everything looks promising and we can get back to pre-Covid revenue for both the gaming and non-gaming amenity sectors by the 4th quarter of 2021.
What new initiatives is the IOWA Gaming Association focusing on?
Legislative and Regulatory proposals that will help the casino members improve their ability to effectively compete.
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