A bill that’s cleared a Senate committee would greatly expand Iowa’s gambling industry, allowing table games at the race track casinos and putting three new gambling licenses up for bid, The bill also reduces the taxes for the race tracks, making ’em identical to the tax on the rivarboats. Senate President Mary Kramer, a republican from Clive, says the tide has changed in the Senate. Kramer says there are a lot of new members in the Senate who have different opinions about gambling than old legislators who sought restrictions on the industry. Kramer says the other thing that’s happened since last legislative session is the overwhelming passage of gambling referendums in the areas which have state-licensed casinos. She says it is a different time in the legislature for many, many issues.The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled the state’s racetracks are owed millions of dollars in tax refunds from the state because they’ve unfairly been taxed at a higher rate than the riverboat casinos. While the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the state’s appeal on that ruling, Kramer says waiting may not be the best option. Kramer says it seems prudent to have a vehicle for discussion of the topic if they have to look at some things differently. But Republican House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City says waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule this summer is the best option, and he’ll opppose having the House debate the issue. He says they don’t have time to waste on a gambling debate right now. Rants, who’s from Sioux City — a city that has a state-licensed riverboat casino, doesn’t buy the urgency of competition from Nebraska. He says he’s as close to Nebraska as anyone, and he says Nebraska has to change its constitution to allow gambling, and they don’t know how they’re going to do it. The gambling bill passed the Senate State Government Committee yesterday on a 10-to-four vote and bill backers expect there’ll be major changes made before it’s considered by the full Senate.
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