The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission voted Tuesday to conduct a new study on the socioeconomic impact of gambling on the state. Commission chair, Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny, says the legislature requires the study every eight years.
“It’s probably much more of a document directed to the legislature, because it tries to get at things like what are the social problems associated with gaming in Iowa. Have they changed significantly over the past few years? You know, that’s problem gambling, crime, and also the positives. We know that there’s a significant economic impact from gaming,” Lamberti says.
Lamberti was in the legislature and says he was heavily involved in the first study in 2004. He says the commission’s role is to see that the study is prepared for legislators.
“If that study would show something of concern that we don’t already know, then I think it’s much more of a document that the legislature could use to look at policy changes,” according to Lamberti. “We will look at it because we obviously help monitor things like exclusions programs, and security, so we’re interested in crime issues and that.”
Racing and Gaming Commission administrator, Brian Ohorilko, says they still need to determine what types of questions will be asked on the survey. He expects many of them to be similar to the study done in 2004.
“Are there increasing rates of crime in areas of gambling? Is there an increasing number of bankruptcies, divorce rates? Those were in part some of the things that were studied in 2004,” he says. “There will be a whole host of factors that will be included in the RFP.”
Ohorilko says the legislature has approved up to $125,000 for the study. This study is not related to a separate study on the gambling market that the commission is undertaking.
Lamberti says they are in the process of getting the market study underway. “We will interview and select a company or companies to do some market studies, and we really won’t do anything until we get those results back, because so much is data driven in terms of where the market is. Whether that be looking Cedar Rapids and the proposal they have or other parts of the state,” Lamberti says.
“And of course as we go through this, we’ve got a referendum coming up in Greene County in early August, so we’ll take that into account depending on what happens there. And then we will look at the rest of the state.”
Lamberti had indicated earlier that some of the communities that sought gambling license before might be interested again, and he says Fort Dodge is the only one he knows of with interest. “They have made some inquiries to us about what our process is, what do we intend. And so that’s really the only thing that we are hearing that may be out there, but nothing firm or any proposal to go to a referendum or anything like that,” according to Lamberti.
“And I think a lot of them now wanted to get a sense of where the commission is with these studies and what it meant. Because obviously, we set an application deadline for Cedar Rapids. We have not done anything for the rest of the state — nor do we intend to until after we get the market studies back.”
The market studies are expected to be completed in February.