The merits of gambling in Iowa were debated again today at the state Racing and Gaming Commission’s meeting. The discussion featured a variety of approaches as those in favor and those against gambling stated their cases. Worth County Development Director Kim Miller used a humorous approach in citing the potential for gambling success in her area. Miller says the “Top of Iowa Welcome Center” located on Interstate-35 and minutes from Interstate-90 has provided service to eight-million people in five years. She drew laughs as she said that number was measured in toilet flushes. Miller drew more laughs later when she pointed out — that if approved for a gambling license — the county have to build and name a new lake for a casino boat. She says names like “Lake of Dreams” or her personal favorite “Lake Kimberly” have been thrown about, but she says they’re also considering names like “Lake Mahaffey and Lake Cutler,” in reference to two of the commissioners. On a more sober note, Charles Nelson told the commission he is a pathological gambler who got hooked on the slot machines at Prairie Meadows in Altoona. He says he was a victim of a vicious, cunning, baffling, chronic and progressive addiction. He says he fell hard, savaged by serious financial difficulties, horrible emotional upheaval and spiritual bankruptcy. He says he went into the Iowa Gamblers Treatment Program and graduated in the spring of 2000. Nelson says more gambling in the state will lead to more problem gamblers and leave more people in his situation. He says “We disordered gamblers are judged to be irresponsible individuals who lack control over our behaviors. We are marginalized, stigmatized and then urged to ban ourselves from an activity that is supposedly safe, wholesome and fun.” Wes Ehrecke of the Iowa Gaming Association defended the industry. He says there is some compulsive behavior related to gambling, but he says there’s also compulsive behavior related to eating and shopping and various things. Ehrecke says there are programs in place to help compulsive gamblers and he says there could be some improvement. But, he says the majority of gamblers do so as entertainment as it is intended to be. Ehrecke says the money spent on gambling isn’t that much compared to other entertainment opportunities, and he says there are benefits from the industry. He says an average of 51 dollars is spent per person in casinos. He says 12 years ago we didn’t have nine thousand jobs, we didn’t have a 229-million dollar payroll, we didn’t have 129-million dollars in goods being purchased in Iowa and we didn’t have 69-million dollars in charitable contributions.After hearing nearly two hours of presentations, the commission voted to keep the moratorium on gambling licenses, with the promise to revisit the issue if they’re given some direction by state legislators.
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