The city council in Tama is hoping to convince state officials to grant a license for a second casino in Tama County. The Meskwaki Casino sits a few miles outside of Tama. State officials granted four new casino licenses last year and there are no current plans to grant more but members on the Tama City Council say a new casino on the town’s Cherry Lake would help revitalize Tama.

Ed Hardon’s been running a hardware store in Tama for 46 years, and he says something must be done to save Tama’s main street. “It’s (gone) downhill,” Hardon says. Hardon is among those who believe a gambling boat could turn Tama’s luck around. “Just drive past any casino in the state of Iowa,” Hardon says. “They draw a lot of people.”

Hardon says the Tama business district could cash in when gamblers cash out at the casino. “They buy gas. They buy food,” Hardon says. “They might shop in one of the stores.”

One block away at Tama’s Town Pump bar others agree. Tama resident Ron Hill says too many businesses in Tama have closed. “There used to be three grocery stores, four — I think — even at one time,” Hill says. “They’re all gone.” Hill hasn’t heard any opposition to the idea of a new casino. “They think it’s probably an all right, going-to-be a good thing,” Hill says.

For the past few weeks casino-boat supporters in Tama have been collecting petition signatures so there can be a county-wide referendum in Tama County this fall. If residents vote to allow gambling in their county, that’s just the first step. State regulators would have to grant a license to an operator proposing a casino for Tama and there’s no indication the Racing and Gaming Commission is inclined to reopen the application process.

The general manager of the Meskwaki Casino and Hotel declined to comment on the push to land a casino in nearby Tama.