Mar 15, 2022 - News

Iowa nonprofit casino CEO gets $800,000 bonus

A photo of Gary Palmer.

Gary Palmer, president and CEO of Prairie Meadows, in June 2020. Photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via Imagn Content Services

Prairie Meadows CEO Gary Palmer received an $800,000 bonus last week, according to minutes of a special casino board meeting obtained by Axios.

  • That's in addition to his $641,000 base salary.

Why it matters: The casino — one of the very few in the nation that operates as a nonprofit — provides tens of millions of dollars annually to charities and local governments.

Catch up fast: Prairie Meadows began as a horse track in 1989 with a $40 million loan from Polk County. Taxpayers took on more debt after it filed for bankruptcy protection two years later.

  • Slot machines were added in 1995, allowing it to quickly repay about $90 million in debt.
  • The casino has directed more than $2 billion to central Iowa governments and philanthropies in its history.

Flashback: Prairie Meadows' executive salaries have faced scrutiny in the past.

What they're saying: Palmer told Axios his bonus is largely based on his performance, and noted that last year was the casino's best yet, exceeding its revenue projections by $40 million.

  • Palmer said the casino's charitable giving will reach a record level in 2022.

Of note: Palmer has worked more than 20 years for the casino. He told Axios he plans to retire at the end of 2023.


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