A legislative committee voted Tuesday to move up the deadline for a study on the socio-economic impacts of gambling in Iowa. Anti-gambling advocates say the study will prove casinos lead to addiction, bankruptcies and divorce. Iowa Gaming Association president Wes Ehrecke says he just wants it to be fair. Ehrecke says since the people who are traditionally opposed to gambling have initiated the study, it proves the study won’t be biased. Republican House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City says that’s the goal of lawmakers as well. Rants says they’ll hire a research company that produces a study based on science, not opinion. Rants says they don’t want a study put together by opponents or advocates of gambling, but a “truly neutral” socio-economic study. He says the legislature doesn’t want to get a pro-gambling or antigambling study, but some unbiased data, “something that’s scientifically valid.” Rants says legislative leaders are asking how casinos affect the job market, how problem gamblers affect communities, and how gambling affects health issues, family life and household finances. Ehrecke says he’s not concerned that the study will be biased one way or another as he believes the questions will be balanced. Ehrecke says it’ll be reviewed by academic experts to ensure accuracy and lack of bias. Ehrecke, however, says he hopes the researchers hired don’t “reinvent the wheel” since the state already has a general idea of what some social impacts of gambling will be. Ehrecke says the National Gambling Impact Study Commission has concluded that one-percent of people will be problem gamblers. He says already-accumulated data from the 1-800-“Bets-Off” hotline and other treatment providers shows how many people will experience broken marriages or money troubles. Ehrecke says the study could wind up demonstrating what benefits gambling would bring, as well as its negative impacts on individuals, families and communities. Lawmakers appropriated 100-thousand dollars for a gambling study, and now have pushed the deadline up from next July to this December, hoping to pass along the data to the State Racing and Gaming Commission before it considers whether to issue new casino licenses in Iowa.
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