Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission Director Brian Ohorilko departs agency after 20 years

Brian Ohorilko, the leading regulator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, has announced his departure from the agency after two decades of service, including 12 years as the Director. The commission has appointed Tina Eick, the current Director of Operations, as the Interim Director. During his tenure, Ohorilko was instrumental in overseeing significant aspects of Iowa’s gambling sector, including the legalization and growth of sports betting.

In his role, Ohorilko witnessed various changes in the industry, such as the transition of casinos from riverboats to land operations, the end of greyhound racing in Dubuque, the implementation of new federal regulations in horse racing, and challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also led the agency as sports betting grew into a multi-billion dollar sector in the US since the repeal of a federal law that prohibited it in 2018, and as Iowa adopted its own legalized market.

“(Iowa’s) statutes and regulations have been modeled by many states that implemented sports wagering after Iowa,” he said to the Des Moines Register. “Just like any new industry, we may continue to see regulations, technology and policy evolve over the next few years. That is a healthy and expected approach.”

In 2023, Iowa’s gambling industry gained national attention following an investigation into betting among student-athletes from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Ohorilko expressed reservations about the investigation, suggesting disagreement with the methods used. While several athletes have made plea deals or had charges dropped, many cases remain pending. The NCAA’s investigation also resulted in suspensions and penalties for student-athletes who violated association rules.

Ohorilko told the cited source that his decision to leave the position was not influenced by the gambling investigation. “It really just came down to me wanting to try some new challenges, and the timing felt right personally and professionally to do that at this time,” he said. “Gambling regulation in the State of Iowa will continue to be in great hands!”

In a statement, the commission praised Ohorilko. “Brian has served our commission well and with great integrity. We appreciate his twenty years of public service to the state and wish him well as he returns to the private sector,” commission chair Daryl Olsen said.

Ohorilko leaves the commission to take a high-level job at Altoona’s Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino. The former regulator will serve as a Senior Vice President overseeing racing, human resources and food and beverage, Prairie Meadows CEO Gary Palmer confirmed this month.