All five members of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission are reluctant to lift the moratorium on new gambling licenses that’s been in effect for five years. A consultant report delivered to the Racing and Gaming Commission Thursday indicates there is room for more casinos in Iowa, and several counties have voted in favor of establishing casino-style gaming in their area, and two other counties are set to vote later this month. But state regulators who have the power to lift the moratorium on new riverboat casinos say the legislature should somehow be involved in making the decision. Racing and Gaming Commission chairman Michael Mahaffey of Montezuma says deciding how many state licenses should be handed out is major public policy. Mahaffey says there are 150 elected representatives from all walks of life and the Racing and Gaming Commission would be “more than happy” to get some direction from lawmakers. He says it’s a question of “what kind of state we are and what kind of state we are to become.” Commission member Diane Hamilton of Storm Lake says a regulatory committee should not have to make these kinds of decisions. She says this decision shouldn’t be left up to five people. Commission member Joyce Jarding of Farley, which is near Dubuque, says legislators need to be “weigh in” on the issue. Jarding says she thinks legislators are the ones who should be making decisions like the number of new licenses. Jarding suggests the boats shouldn’t have to cruise on a waterway, and she doesn’t think it’s logical to require folks to “go out and dig a hole so they can get a gaming license.” Commission member Gerald Baier of Des Moines is hoping the legislature offers “guidance.” He says it’s a major issue across Iowa and he says the input from the legislature would be valuable.Commission member Kate Cutler of Honey Creek, which is near Council Bluffs, says the Legislature is probably the “most appropriate” place for the decision to be made on new gambling licenses. Cutler says whether the legislature would act is uncertain because the reason the Racing and Gaming Commission established the moratorium in the first place is because of a disagreement in state government. The Legislature had passed a bill that established a moratorium on new licenses, but Terry Branstad, who was Governor at the time, vetoed it.
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