Key legislators say newfound state gambling tax revenue from new riverboat licenses — and additional fees from existing operations — may be used to bankroll the state’s “Iowa Values” state economic development fund. Senate President Jeff Lamberti, a republican from Ankeny, says lawmakers voted to create a half a BILLION dollar fund that’ll be handed out to businesses that expand or locate in Iowa over a seven year period. Lawmakers provided enough money for just the first two years. Lamberti says one option to get the next five years is to borrow the money, and use the extra gambling taxes to repay the loans. That’s what legislators did when they created the “Vision Iowa” program that handed out state money for large-scale community attractions. Lamberti expects the state to start collecting more gambling taxes, and predicts the first payment will be a multi-million dollar fee from Prairie Meadows. Lamberti says Prairie Meadows will pay that money to add table games, like roulette, to its slot machine casino. And Lamberti expects the other two tracks to follow suit. While a new casino boat may not be up and running immediately, he says a boat could start paying gambling taxes sometime in early 2006, which would bring new gambling tax revenue to the state. Lamberti says the real debate may be whether to use that gambling cash to pay for the program year-to-year, or whether to borrow money, using the gambling taxes over the next 20 years to pay the loan off. Lamberti says the extra gambling taxes may give lawmakers the flexibility to pursue either course. Lamberti made his comments on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press program.
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