Iowa legislators approve bill to set two-year moratorium on new casino licences

The measure still needs governor Kim Reynolds’ approval.
The measure still needs governor Kim Reynolds’ approval.

A two-year moratorium on casino licences in Iowa would jeopardise Linn County casino.

US.- The Iowa Legislature has approved a moratorium on issuing any new approvals for casinos for two years. The moratorium is part of House File 2497, a broader law on gaming and regulations. The bill was passed 35-11 in the Iowa Senate and later 60-23 in the Iowa House.

If it’s signed by governor Kim Reynolds, the bill would block P2E’s Cedar Rapids casino project. Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who chairs the House State Government Committee, said the objective was to preserve an “equilibrium” in the number of casinos.

Kaufmann said he’s concerned that with 19 state-licensed casinos, and 23 casinos in total, Iowa’s gambling market was saturated, which he fears could impact on casinos’ donations to local nonprofits. The Iowa Gaming Association’s president, Wes Ehrecke, said the group supports the moratorium.

However, Cedar Rapids mayor Tiffany O’Donnell said: “It’s incredibly disappointing that this can happen seemingly in the dark of night without the city to even have the opportunity to respond.

“It’s disappointing knowing the voters wanted the casino, the amount of time, money, and effort from investors, as well as from the governor’s appointed Racing and Gaming Commission, that something like this can happen so quickly without any of us knowing about it.”

The Cedar Rapids casino project

In March, the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission opened the licence application process for a new casino in Cedar Rapids, Linn County, after around 55 per cent of voters in Linn County, Iowa, said yes to a casino last November, however the regulator could still deny a gaming licence.

Attempts to bring a casino to Cedar Rapids failed in 2014 and 2017. On both occasions, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission said a casino would take away from other nearby casinos.

Developer Jonathan Swain, president of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, the potential Cedar Rapids casino operator, said it seems the commission recognizes that the citizens have said twice now they want a casino: “I think they feel this responsibility as a commission to respect the vote of the citizens and the will of the Cedar Rapidians that voted for this.” 

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