The State Racing and Gaming Commission Wednesday heard the final public comments before the commission will decided how many new gambling licenses to award. The commission heard over seven hours of comments from people on the 10 proposals for new gambling licenses. The commissioners asked questions of the organizations vying for the new licenses based on those public comments, and then revealed their thoughts on the number of new licenses they favored. Commissioner Mike Mahaffey of Montezuma said he still doesn’t believe there needs to be any new licenses — but says he realizes he’s part of the commission charged with making the decision. Mahaffey says he would vote for less rather than more licenses and by that he means no more than two or three. Commissioner Kate Cutler of Council Bluffs said she understands there are still many who don’t want any new licenses, but will vote for them. She says she appreciates the concerns, but says she can’t turn down an applicant because there are a lot of people who still don’t want a license in the community. She says she’ll look at the licensee’s economic viability, utilization of Iowa resources, gaming integrity, economic development and tourism, revenue sharing and their non-profit organizations. Cutler says that puts her in the range of voting for two to six licenses. Commissioner Joyce Jarding of Farley says no matter how many licenses are awarded, the communities that made proposals shouldn’t give up on improving. She says they have a good beginning with all their leaders working together, “So whatever happens, don’t stop now no matter what happens with this process.” Jarding says she will probably support three to five new licenses. Commissioner chair Diane Hamilton of Storm Lake said she agreed with Jarding.She says, “We don’t want to issue so many licenses, so that a year down the road we have a casino that’s in trouble and we have to go through closing it. I think that would be about the worst thing we could do at this point. Having said all that, I am in the range of three to five also.”Commissioner Gerald Bair of Ankeny also said he would support two to five new licenses. The commission will take an actual vote to award new licenses at its meeting next Wednesday.
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