Key lawmakers say they’ll be no move among legislators to override the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s decision to delay looking at requests for new casino licenses for at least a year, perhaps longer. House Speaker Pat Murphy, a Democrat from Dubuque, says state gambling regulators have done a "good job" managing the industry.
"We need to listen to their leadership," Murphy says. "…I think it’s much better if they deal with it versus the legislature." There are presently 17 state-licensed casinos in Iowa. Cities like Ottumwa and Fort Dodge have been pressing their case for a casino after being turned down in the most recent round of license applications.
Senator Ron Wieck, a Republican from Sioux City, says he’s heard no discussion among legislators about jumping into the debate about new licenses. "I think that it’s important that we understand that it’s not our job to decide that there will be an expansion," Wieck says.
A few Republican senators, however, have filed a bill hoping to enact another moratorium that would essentially freeze the number of state-licensed casinos in Iowa at the current number. "We have a handful of folks…that believe that gaming ought to go away in the State of Iowa and that’s their position," Wieck says. Wieck, however, says that’s not the majority opinion.
All six elected floor leaders in the Iowa Legislature come from areas which already have state-licensed casinos. Wieck and House Republican Leader Christopher Rants are from Sioux City, where the Argosy casino operates. Murphy, the House Speaker, is from Dubuque which has the race track/casino and the Diamond Jo casino. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal is from Council Bluffs, where two casinos operate along the Missouri River. Senate President Jack Kibbie is from Emmetsburg, home to one of the state’s five newest casinos. And House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy is from the Des Moines metro where the Prairie Meadows Race Track and Casino operates in the suburb of Altoona.