Two of the three leading democrat candidates for governor say Fort Dodge and Ottumwa should be first in line if the state grants more casino licenses. Mike Blouin served as Governor Vilsack’s economic development director for two-and-a-half years, and Blouin says those two communities were left out last year when state regulators granted new casino licenses. “I have told the folks in Fort Dodge and in Ottumwa repeatedly and consistently that they went through every hoop properly. They put a plan together. They got an economic model in place. They had a referendum and approval was given,” Blouin says. “I think they’ve got a right to theirs and then I think we should call it a day.”
Secretary of State Chet Culver isn’t calling as Blouin is for re-opening the license-granting process. “We wager $7 billion annually in this state on gambling of all different types. I think for the time being we certainly have enough of it. At the same time, we have communities like Fort Dodge and Ottumwa that have gone through all the appropriate steps to get a gaming license and they don’t have one,” Culver says. “If we do expand it in the future, we need to look at communities like Fort Dodge and Ottumwa first.”
Culver says voters in both of those communities have endorsed local gambling referendums and have a desire for the jobs that would come from a new casino. Yet Culver says the state must be “careful” about gambling expansion.
The other leading Democrat in the race, State Representative Ed Fallon (FAL-un) of Des Moines says the state should not only be careful, it should never have allowed gambling enterprises in the state. “Gambling is not true economic development. It merely moves the furniture around,” Fallon says. “We’re starting to see, I think, a proliferation of gambling in this state that is unsupportable.”
Fallon says most research show communities see an increase in crime, domestic assaults and bankruptcies when a casino moves in. Fallon says rather than using gambling as “economic development” he would invest in rebuilding Main Streets, increase tax credits for redevelopment of historic buildings and focus more state resources on small business development. The candidates made their comments Tuesday night during a debate sponsored by K-C-R-G T-V and the Cedar Rapids Gazette.