Dubuque casinos saw a sharp decline in gambling revenue last month, providing further evidence that the market is facing major challenges as it attempts to navigate the realities of COVID-19.

Diamond Jo and Q casinos collectively produced about $9.3 million in gambling revenue last month, a decline of nearly 13% compared to August 2019.

While Diamond Jo earned the majority of the market share, the casino also experienced steeper year-over-year declines. The property reported $5.18 million in gaming revenue last month, a decrease of 16% compared to the same period last year. Q Casino saw revenues decline 7.8%, to about $4.1 million last month.


Q Casino CEO Jesus Aviles discussed the latest financials Tuesday during a meeting of the Dubuque Racing Association Board of Directors. The DRA is the nonprofit license holder for both Dubuque casinos.

Aviles acknowledged that it is difficult to forecast what lies ahead.

“We just don’t know where this (industry) is going to go,” he said. “We’re all optimistic that it will get better by the day and by the month, but that is an uncertainty.”

Sports betting served as a bright spot for each casino.

Major professional sports leagues resumed action late this summer after multi-month shutdowns, leading to a major increase in sports wagers.

FanDuel Sportsbook, located within Diamond Jo, saw sports wagers increase from $267,000 in July to $743,000 last month. Bettors wagered $2.23 million at Q Sportsbook in August, more than double the $1.07 million wagered in July.

“We are getting a lot of visitations and a lot of action there,” Aviles said.

Both Dubuque casinos reopened June 1 after being shuttered for more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q General Manager Brian Rakestraw noted that the industry’s struggles are not exclusive to Dubuque: The Iowa gambling market was down more than 7% last month, while Illinois saw revenues fall by 25% and Wisconsin observed a 12% decline.

The pandemic has also impacted business at Houlihan’s and the Hilton Garden Inn, both of which are owned by Q Casino. The combined struggles in the gambling, hospitality and restaurant industries have compelled Q leaders to take a close look at their costs.

“One of our main goals as we move into the winter months is to really manage our bottom line and watch our expenses,” Rakestraw told the DRA board.

Financial uncertainty already has impacted nonprofits that rely on annual DRA grants.

In April, the DRA board voted to push back awarding its grants, which typically are announced in May.

At the time, Board Chairman Gary Dolphin emphasized that the grant program was just being delayed, rather than being eliminated altogether. However, a definitive plan for grant allocations has not materialized in the months since.

In an email to the Telegraph Herald, Dolphin indicated that a decision could be reached as early as next month. At that point, the casino will be entering the final quarter of the year and officials will be able to “see where the casino sits financially,” he wrote.

“It’s my hope that (in the) 4th Quarter we can distribute grant monies,” he wrote.