Iowa’s casino industry says it’s time to eliminate the law that requires local voters to approve gambling referendums every eight years. Casino interests argue it’s hurting their ability to secure multi-year loans. Iowa Gaming Association president Wes Ehrecke says counties should only be required to approve gambling twice if the referendums win with a 60 percent or better margin.
"If you have to do it every eight years, this limits the ability to expand on the capital investment because lenders may not be as willing to do so as it gets closer to that referendum vote," Ehrecke said. "By having this removed, if the citizens have indeed passed it by such an extensive margin, then there’s the opportunities for more capital investment and entertainment amenities."
The bill Ehrecke backs would limit gambling opponents ability to gather petition signatures and force a vote on gambling in their county — a limit of once every 15 years. Ehrecke says, "Every year we are required to come before the Racing and Gaming Commission to get our license renewed so there’s always that opportunity for citizens to come forward if there’s a problem." But Representative Rod Roberts, a Republican from Carroll, opposes the move. He says the legislature has been far too willing to give the casinos whatever they want.
"There’s been an evolution or a progression to where it almost appears now that there is no ability to say ‘no’ or to stop," Roberts said. Roberts argues the legislature has abdicated it’s responsibility in regards to gambling, so the public has to be given the final say. "You have to keep that accountability mechanism. Since the legislature has basically abdicated it’s responsibility and we just leave it to an appointed confirmed commission, you need the people," Roberts said.
Roberts, though, would be willing to consider holding gambling referendums once every 15 years instead of once every eight years to give casinos more time to secure long-term loans.