Polk County, which owns the Prairie Meadows racetrack and casino, recently reach an agreement to keep the city leaders in Des Moines from endorsing any proposed new casino in the capital city. Polk County leaders promised to give the city of Des Moines nearly 35-Million dollars over five years to keep them from approving any competition for the horse track/casino in Altoona. But that agreement hasn’t stopped others from trying to get an expanded gambling referendum on the November ballot. Julie Evans is an organizer who’s been advertising for workers to collect signatures, putting up help-wanted signs that promise a dollar a name. She says it won’t mean people are for or against gaming, just that they want “open discussion” on the gaming venues taxpayers want to have. Petitions are being circulated in Polk and Warren County to put the issue of a new casino on the November ballot, and Evans says backers think the voters would show they support the idea. Evans says economic data shows the metro “Golden Circle” area has enough consumer demand to support another casino, without “cannibalizing Prairie Meadows.” Evans says she was hired by Gary Kirke, a promoter whose “Wild Rose Entertainment” company partnered with Mississippi-based Isle of Capri to propose a riverboat casino in Des Moines. Evans says they think people in Polk County should know the “options and opportunities” before them if they decide they’d support another gaming venue in the county. Prairie Meadows officials told local government leaders that a second casino would siphon off profits, cutting into the money the track gives to local charities, schools and other institutions. But Evans says it’s wrong to assume a second casino would be a bad thing. The issue is that competition’s a good thing, she says, and makes everybody’s products better. She says it’s more than money. Evans says the plan would create 15-hundred new jobs with its 200-Million-dollar investment in facilities and construction, and also would create lots of indirect jobs, as well as purchases and revenues for other businesses in the area. Evans says backers of the public vote want the decision made “in the light of day,” not behind closed doors. There have been charges that the hasty agreement between the capital city, Polk County and Prairie Meadows was done without much public input or information. Kirke’s proposal was one of three casino plans presented to the city council. Backers of a referendum have until August 18th to get the required number of signatures.
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