The debate over whether the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission should put a freeze on new gambling licenses, or issue more, continues. Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson says Franklin County, Fort Dodge, and Ottumwa shouldn’t be shut out just because they weren’t among the four granted new licenses last week. Fellow north-central Iowa Senator, Thurman Gaskill a republican from Corwith, says it’s something that should be looked into. He says, “As long as those counties or whoever interested, if they’ve had a vote and the majority are interested in a casino, then I don’t have a problem with it.” Gaskill says he’s not ready to throw the process open again, but he says those who’ve been given a license should proceed and watched to see how they do. He says if those four new casinos do o-kay, then he’d be willing to open the process up for the other counties that’ve already approved gambling. Gaskill believes that casinos in Worth and Franklin Counties can serve north- central Iowa without any problems.He says he thinks Worth County would “get the first shot at anybody coming down the interstate” and says they’d probably draw more Minnesota dollars than people realize. Gaskill says Worth County could take advantage of an audience that’s already there. He says there are bus trips every day from Iowa into Minnesota to the casinos there. He says Worth County would get the buses coming the other way. Meanwhile, the executive director of the economic development group in Worth and Winnebago Counties says legislators should be sticking to the process that was laid out when the issue of expansion started a few years ago. Win-Worth-Betco (Winnebago-Worth Betterment Corporation) Executive Director Teresa Nicholson says that everyone who entered the race for a new casino knew there would be winners and losers.She says,”The commission made it very clear that they were not going to award a license to every applicant. We knew that there was a chance going in that Worth County would not get a license.” She says with the close proximity of Worth County and Fort Dodge, they knew it was more than likely that all would get a license. She says,”They’re all great proposals, but the commission made their choice and we all have to abide by what they chose.” Nicholson says it’s hard to tell at this time whether or not a Franklin County casino would impact the Diamond Jo at the Top of Iowa Welcome Center. She says, “Having facilities within close proximity to each other is one of the things the commission members stated very clearly that they were trying to avoid. For instance they had state previously that they did not want to license any facilities that would cannibalize another existing Iowa facility.” She says they felt that was one of their strengths that they are so close to the boarder that a large portion of their customers would come from the Minnesota market. Nicholson says it’s disappointing that some legislators are coming out against the Racing and Gaming Commission’s choices after the application process has been played out. She says, “You know they (the commission) really didn’t want to put themselves out on the line as far as having to make that decision without some legislative input. So, it’s natural that our political body is commenting on how this came down. However, I guess my personal opinion is that we went through the legislative process for a reason. The commission asked for input from them, we got that input, and we went back to the commission and were able to make the applications and find out who received the licenses.” Governor Vilsack late last week started pressuring state gaming regulators by suggesting that the Wild Rose Ottumwa casino should also have been approved.
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