The Iowa House has voted to open the door to gambling expansion. State regulators would be able to decide whether new riverboat casinos could be placed in the counties that’ve passed referendums — the only restriction is that a new casino cannot be placed in downtown Des Moines. Senators are expected to endorse the bill a final time today. The legislation cleared the House yesterday after four hours of debate led by Representative Scott Raecker, a republican from Urbandale. Raecker says the bill’s “the best we can do this year with what we have.” Representative Helen Miller, a democrat from Fort Dodge, says many in her community believe a riverboat casino would bring needed jobs. Miller says there are a lot of people with needs out there, and many see a casino as “hope” and “economic growth.” Representative Betty De Boef , a republican from What Cheer, says gambling’s a sin. De Boef says “the proper role of government is to protect the welfare of the citizenry and to suppress evil.” “State-sanctioned gambling does just the opposite,” according to De Boef, by victimizing people, “especially the most vulnerable.” Representative Dolores Mertz, a democrat from Ottosen, offered the opposite view. Mertz says if gambling’s a sin, then she’s going “straight down under” because she’s a farmer and gambles “every day of the week, every week of the year” with large stakes than anyone can wager at any existing casino in Iowa. Representative Dwayne Alons, a republican from Hull, says this country was built on hard work, not on chance.Alons says the Pilgrims didn’t come to this country “to pull a few slot machine levers, and listen for the plinking of coins, nor did they come just to play cards or throw the dice.” Representative Mary Gaskill, a democrat from Ottumwa, says there’s already gambling in Wapello County, which has passed a referendum.Gaskill says they’re simply spending their gambling dollars in other counties in the state. Gaskill asked her fellow lawmakers to give her county a chance to capture those gambling dollars locally. Representative Royd Chambers, a republican from Sheldon, says the gambling industry’s built on losers, and is no more than “legal thievery.” Chambers says it’s “an industry that exploits the most lowly and base parts of human nature.” The House, on a 54-to-44 vote, rejected the idea of forbidding new riverboat casinos. The bill goes back to the Senate for consideration of some minor changes in the bill.
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