Eye on KELOLAND: Sports activities betting goes cellular


LARCHWOOD, IOWA (KELO) — Next week marks one year since Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood, Iowa opened its Betfred Sportsbook, allowing guests to bet on pro and college games in a Las Vegas-style setting. But the pandemic put a temporary stop to the wagering when the casino shut down for two-and-a-half months. Gamblers have since returned to the sportsbook and are looking forward to placing their bets on the upcoming Super Bowl. Players now have a new tool to bet on their favorite teams.

He has the same name as the legendary soul singer, only this Marvin Gaye is from Sioux Falls and when it comes to betting on sports at the Grand Falls Casino, he knows “what’s goin’ on.”

“You come here, you watch the sports, you’re able to watch your team play and at the same time, you make money on the bets, so that’s a good thing,” Gaye said.

Gaye comes to the Betfred Sportsbook every day, after work.

“It’s 50-50, sometimes I win, I lose,” Gaye said.

Gaye is part of the resurgence of sports betting that plunged last year at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We started off with a huge bang with the sportsbook and we were ready for March Madness and then COVID hit and then it went a little soft after that,” Grand Falls Casino General Manager Sharon Haselhoff said.

The sports betting remained soft after Grand Falls re-opened in June.

“Summer was a little slow with people betting on ping pong,” Haselhoff said.

But the arrival of football and basketball seasons led to a strong finish of the year for the sportsbook.

“December, for Iowa, and even Betfred here, it’s been the largest month for sports handle, and this past weekend, with the playoffs, the biggest weekend we’ve had here for the sports handle, so it’s been really good,” Haselhoff said.

Haselhoff expects another big handle for next month’s Super Bowl. They’re also looking forward to college basketball’s March Madness, and the return of Missouri Valley Conference football, delayed by the pandemic.

“We’ll have some football again, here in the spring, to be able to bet on, with SDSU and USD and North Dakota and so I think we’ll have some fun things to do in the spring,” Haselhoff said.

Technology could be a game-changer for sports betting in the future. As of January 1st, people can place bets online, through their phone, through a mobile site. But they have to be in Iowa to place their bets.

“So that’s helping with registration, increasing those registrations online so Betfred’s seen an increase of registrations throughout the state, not just in this specific area, but increases throughout the state, which has helped increase their online presence,” Haselhoff said.

Grand Falls expects large crowds in the weeks ahead even though betting online removes some of the incentive for players to show up at the casino.

“This past weekend, the line was out to the center bar for the playoff games, so people are still coming in, seats will be packed for Super Bowl Sunday,” Haselhoff said.

Some regulars like Gaye, who don’t live in Iowa, say they’ll bypass betting online.

“If I can drive from Sioux Falls to come here, I just come inside and bet than do it online,” Gaye said.

But betting through your mobile device is expected to generate more interest in Betfred, so as it enters its second year, anyone who wants to wager, whether in-person, or online, will have a sporting chance.

Betfred is based in the United Kingdom and Grand Falls was its first sports betting venture in the U.S. During the past year, its expanded its footprint to include Colorado, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

Masks are required at Grand Falls. Hand sanitizers and wipes are also located throughout the facility for guests and employees.