A developer in Newton wants the state to grant him a license to build a casino in the town that was hit by the loss of long-time appliance manufacturer Maytag. James Myers, president of Regency Companies of West Des Moines, told the Newton city council they’d like to build a casino on 62 acres of land north of the Iowa Speedway.

Myers says when the racetrack was announced, it made it difficult to sell homes on the land and they’ve been looking for a commercial use for the land to add to what the track has brought to the community.

Myers says the spot along Interstate 80 is ideal for a casino. He says more than 10 million cars pass by the location every year. Myers says the casino would help add to the tourism in the state by creating a "synergy" between the track, and hotel-casino.

Myers says the casino and hotel could also attract other businesses to the area. Myers says with just the drive-by traffic, they will be able to get people to stop at the casino, or to see a race or take advantage of other opportunities.

The president of the Jasper County Gaming Development Corporation, Dennis Julius, says the project will continue to rebuild and diversify the economy in the area. "We all know what happened to Newton here with the exodus of Maytag," Julius says, "and we’ve kind of learned what putting all our eggs in one industrial basket can do, and has done to us." Julius says they believe the casino can have a positive impact and bring in more business.

County residents would first have to approve a referendum on gambling — which is targeted for April. The state Racing and Gaming Commission would also have to approve a new license for Newton. The commission will discuss the possibility of new licenses at its meeting in March.