Dubuque casinos report revenue increases, attendance decreases as COVID-19 impacts continue

While Dubuque casinos saw positive trends in gaming revenue for the beginning of this year, attendance figures and other COVID-19 impacts continue to take a toll.

Diamond Jo and Q Casino reported about $9.7 million in gaming revenue combined in the first month of 2021, an increase of 7.4% compared to January 2020.

Both casinos saw an increase of about 7% when comparing January 2021 and January 2020 gaming revenue figures.

Diamond Jo generated $5.68 million in gaming revenue last month, up from the January 2020 total of $5.29 million. Q Casino, meanwhile, brought in just over $4 million in gaming revenue in January, up from $3.76 million during the same month last year.

These positive trends were discussed Tuesday at a virtual Dubuque Racing Association Board of Directors meeting. The DRA is the nonprofit license holder for both Dubuque casinos.

“We are coming back slowly,” Q Casino CEO Jesus Aviles said at the meeting. “We’re holding our percentage where they have to be held. It’s just a matter of the pandemic going away.”

Q General Manager Brian Rakestraw told the board that the casino still has limited slot chairs available and is still enforcing the Dubuque city and county mask mandate, even as Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted most COVID-19 restrictions in the beginning of February. However, he noted attendance is still continuing to struggle, even with pandemic safety measures in place.

“With all the increases coming from gaming and sports betting revenue, we continue to see restaurant revenue, hotel revenue and entertainment revenue underperforming, and we will continue to see this while attendance struggles,” he said.

In the first month of 2021, the two Dubuque casinos saw a combined attendance of 93,343 people — a decline of 29.1% from the same period last year.

Individually, Diamond Jo welcomed 49,503 people in January while Q Casino saw 43,840 people. Their respective attendance declines from the same time period last year were 32.1% and 25.3%.

These attendance numbers are just one COVID-19-related hardship Dubuque casinos have faced over the past year. Both casinos completely closed from mid-March to the end of May after the pandemic first began. Even after reopening with COVID-19 measures in place, both casinos reported overall declines in gaming revenue and attendance for 2020.

Aviles said the current subzero temperatures could dampen gaming revenues in the month of February. He also acknowledged that hotel occupancy and tourism won’t increase until COVID-19 is over.

Even so, he said he remained positive about the year’s outlook.

“Things are moving in the right direction,” Aviles said. “If this can continue, we will be digging ourselves out of the hole 2020 put us in.”