The State Racing and Gaming Commission granted four new gambling licenses today. Each commissioner talked about their choices for new casinos, and then commissioner Gerald Bair made the motion to approve four new licenses.
Wild Rose application in Emmetsburg, the Diamond Jo in Worth County, the Isle of Capri application in Waterloo and the Washington County application. The vote was 4-1 in favor of those four. Commissioner Mike Mahaffey was the only no vote on the new licenses. Mahaffey explained his stance before the vote, saying he’d heard from thousands of people on the issue.
He says, “And I think I speak for many of them who are not here today.” Mahaffey says last week’s public hearing was “extraordinary” but he says he came out of the hearing with a different viewpoint than the other commissioners. Mahaffey had voted against lifting the moratorium on licenses and says his opinion didn’t change in the application process.
He says, “In the final analysis this was not a question about whether we’re going to have gambling in the State of Iowa, it was whether we were going to have expansion of gambling.” Mahaffey says based on all that he’s heard from all the meetings he would not vote for any new licenses. Commission chair Diane Hamilton says choosing from the six applicants was not easy.
She says, “it was so tough, you would not believe it.” Hamilton says in the last six months every one of the applicants has been her favorite. But she says she had to narrow things down by all the factors involved, such as community support. So four out of the six applicants went away from the meeting happy. Kim Miller is one of them after working for months on the Worth County project. She was at today’s meeting in the bright green Worth County t-shirt she’s worn throughout.
She says, “I’m just speechless actually.” Miller says there’ll be a party in Worth County tonight to celebrate. Don Hoth of the Blackhawk County Gaming Association saw his group win a license away from two other groups in the county.
He says it was a long effort , nearly four years, through getting the gambling law changed, the moratorium on new licenses lifted, their gambling referendum approved. “And it call came down to today, so you have five people making a decision, so it became very emotional for us.” Hoth says the new casino will have an enormous impact on Waterloo and Black Hawk County. He says, “From an economic development standpoint, this will be the biggest thing that happens in Black Hawk County since John Deere first came to town, first came to Waterloo.”
Bill Zeigler is a councilmember in Emmetsburg.
He says, “Really happy that we got selected by all four of them that picked. It’s really gonna be a boost in the arm for Emmetsburg, is what it’s gonna be. Economically and everything.”
Two applicants from Waterloo, one from Palo Alto County, and one each from Ottumwa, Fort Dodge and Franklin County were denied new licenses. The administrator of the Racing and Gaming commission says it’ll take most of the new casinos will take 12 to 18 months to get up and running.