Two Iowa businessmen are each vying for two new state casino licenses. The management company started by Robert Kehl, a pioneer in the state’s riverboat gambling industry, has applied to the state to open new casino operations in Fort Dodge and Riverside. His son, Dan Kehl, is the main pitchman for that Riverside project and he spoke this week with the state regulators who’ll decide which, if any, projects get the go-ahead. Bob Kehl suffered a head injury last week, had surgery and is recuperating at the Mayo Clinic. Dan Kehl says his dad hopes for a speedy recovery so he can attend the Racing and Gaming Commission’s May 11th meeting when gambling licenses will be awarded. “As a side note, it was 15 years ago to this month that my parents were up here presenting in front of this very commission (from) which they received the very first gaming license in the state, something we’re very proud of,” Kehl says. One Kehl boat now operates between Fort Madison and Burlington. Kehl also owns a stake in the boat in Clinton. Gary Kirke, a former Des Moines insurance executive, has formed the Wild Rose Entertainment company and is seeking casino licenses in Ottumwa and Emmetsburg. And two of Governor Vilsack’s closest advisors were hired to represent those Emmetsburg and Ottumwa casino applications. Jerry Crawford, a Des Moines attorney who not only advises but raises money for Vilsack, spoke this week during an Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission hearing. “I’d like to say just a few words about the seven communities that have applications pending before you. In many of those communities, and certainly Ottumwa and Emmetsburg are two of those, they have seen how racing and gaming helped bring about a revival in places like Davenport and Council Bluffs and Dubuque, and they are passionate about trying to achieve that same revival in their own communities,” Crawford says. He cautioned state regulators who might choose to “stand in the way” of smaller Iowa cities like Ottumwa and Emmetsburg that are looking for ways revive their towns.
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