More than two dozen people lined up at the statehouse last night to speak their minds on the subject of gambling. Mike May of Spirit Lake, a member of the Iowa Great Lakes Quality of Life Committee, was the first to speak at the public hearing. May urged lawmakers to change the law so that if folks in a county turn down a gambling proposal, it would be eight years before another could be brought before voters. Under current law, gambling interests could come back in just two years to try again to get a county’s voters to approve a gambling enterprise. He says the gaming interests have much more money and divide the county into two factions that creates animosity that lasts a lifetime. He says this would protect counties.Steve Heldt drove to Des Moines from Palo Alto County, where a gambling referendum passed by over 71 percent this past summer. Heldt says they realize not everyone feels expanded gaming is the answer, but he says everyone can see the good things that have happened in places like Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Osceola and Dubuque. Heldt says the improvements made in areas which have gambling have been “phenomenal.” Jim Braun of Franklin County suggested a casino in his county would serve northern Iowa and southern Minnesota the same way the Lakeside Casino in Osceola serves southern Iowa and northern Missouri. He says Franklin County’s proposal would benefit not only the local area but the state treasury, without competing against existing casinos around the state.Braun says “north Iowa is a large and untapped area of the state which is not yet benefiting by the economic development provided by gaming.” He urged legislators and state regulators to lift the current moratorium on new riverboat casino licenses.
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