Iowa casinos campaign against potential Linn County competitor

Iowa casinos have called for support for Iowa’s gambling industry and protection from competition from outside the state.
Iowa casinos have called for support for Iowa’s gambling industry and protection from competition from outside the state.

Casinos in Iowa are launching a campaign against a new gambling venue in the state.

US.- A group of businessmen of Iowa casinos are launching a campaign against the addition of new gambling venues. The move comes after the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission met last week to discuss the findings of independent studies into the social and economic impact of potential new casino. Around 55 per cent of voters in Linn County, Iowa, said yes to a casino in Cedar Rapids in November.

The city of Cedar Rapids needs three of five commissioners to approve a casino if it’s to go ahead. The board, then composed of different commissioners, previously voted down proposals for a Cedar Rapids casino in 2017 and 2014. However, a socio-economic analysis by the Spectrum Gaming Group released last week showed that Nebraska’s plans to construct casinos along Iowa’s western border could lead to a significant loss in revenue for Iowa’s gaming industry.

The study predicted major losses in revenue for the state by 2025, anticipating that casinos in Council Bluffs and Sioux City would face stiff competition. Council Bluffs casinos is seen as the most at-risk, given 80 per cent of its gaming revenue comes from Nebraska residents.

Dan Kehl, CEO of Elite Casino Resorts, called for support for Iowa’s gambling industry, saying casinos needed protection from competition outside of the state. However, he said the focus should be on strengthening current casinos to compete, instead of adding new venues to the market.

“It’s like deja vu all over again,” Kehl said. “The commission has studied this issue diligently. But the fact is, a Cedar Rapids casino comes primarily at the expense of Riverside, Waterloo and Meskwaki. We’ve invested heavily in our properties to make them attractive to our guests.”

Brian Ohorilko, administrator of the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission, said last week: “We have one study that did seem to opine on an impact of Riverside and Waterloo. It does appear that may be less than some of the previous studies.”

Mayor O’Donnell said: “It’s time for competition. It’s hard to make a case against it when you’re seeing the success in the record profits that the existing casinos have raked in over the last four and five years.”

Linn County currently has no concrete proposal for a casino, and no location on the table. The IRGC says this makes it hard to forecast the impacts of a casino.

Ohorilko said: “Those estimates that were provided are based on just generalisations and not specific applications or with information regarding the number of slot machines, number of table games, location, and additional amenities.”

However, it is expected that Peninsula Pacific Entertainment will operate any potential casino. The company has granted the Linn County Gaming Association 8 per cent of net revenue, over double the 3 per cent required by the state.

See also: Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission meets to discuss impacts of Linn County Casino

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